Dr. Zaghloul El-Naggar

http://www.elnaggarzr.com/en/main.php?id=96&Shift=1

Australia Muslim school rejected

From the BBC

Anti-Islamic immigration slogan on protester's hat

The New South Wales town does not have a large Muslim population

Authorities in an Australian town have rejected proposals to allow an Islamic school to be built there.

Councillors for Camden, a small town on the outskirts of Sydney, unanimously voted against the proposed school for 1200 pupils.

The councillors said they based their decision solely on planning grounds, citing an internal report about its environmental impact.

The proposed development had met with fierce local opposition.

Camden’s authorities received some 3,200 submissions from the public about the school and only 100 in favour.

Tensions reached their height last November when two pigs’ heads were left on the site of the proposed school. Pork products are forbidden for consumption according to Islamic dietary laws. Continue reading “Australia Muslim school rejected”

What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn’t unlocked the Babri Masjid in 1986?

This article first appeared in the online version of the newsmagazine
‘Outlook India’ (issue dt. 23 August 2004) at the URL
http://outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20040823&fname=UCol+Koenraad&sid=1

In 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave in to Muslim pressure in the Shah Bano affair. Overruling a secular court�s decision that the repudiated wife Shah Bano was entitled to alimony from her ex-husband, he enacted a law abolishing the alimony provision in conformity with the Shari�a. Since India, unlike secular states, already had religion-based Civil Codes, this concession merely brought the minor matter of alimony under the purview of the prevailing arrangement. More importantly, it prevented riots.

Only months later, Gandhi restored the balance by giving the Hindus something as well: he ordered the locks on the Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid in Ayodhya removed. Until then, a priest had been permitted to perform puja once a year for the idols installed there in 1949. Now, all Hindus were given access to what they consider as the birthplace of Rama, the prince posthumously deified as an incarnation of Vishnu.

Fundamentally, this decision didn�t alter the Ayodhya equation. Architecturally, the building was and remained a mosque, while functionally, it had been and continued to be a Hindu temple. That is why in my opinion, not taking this decision wouldn�t have changed the Ayodhya developments except in their timing. The different players, their strategies and goals, and their resolve to pursue these, all remained the same. The Babri Masjid Action Committee and the Vishva Hindu Parishad would have gone about their �business� just the same.

However, the VHP would have been forced to continue pushing the rather petty demand for removing the locks, rather than move on to the more ambitious and more mobilizing next step of planning the construction of a new temple. Most probably, the BJP would likewise have reaped smaller dividends from such a campaign. In 1989, it might not have jumped as high as 86 seats. Conversely, Congress might not have lost the North-Indian Muslim vote to the Janata Dal. In 1989, it could have remained just strong enough to cobble together a coalition rather than leave the initiative to the unwholesome and unstable Janata-BJP-Communist combine. So, at the level of party politics, Rajiv Gandhi�s decision may have made a big difference. Continue reading “What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn’t unlocked the Babri Masjid in 1986?”

Traditionalist ulema lead educational revolution in Kerala

Written by Yoginder Sikand · December 13, 2007 · 452 views

December 13, 2007

Kerala’s Muslims are unique among their co-religionists in India in fashioning a system of education that enables their children to attend both religious as well as regular schools at the same time. Muslims account for around a fourth of Kerala’s population, and the state’s Muslims, known as Mapillas, are among the most literate of the various Muslim communities in the country. Madrasas and schools run by literally hundreds of Muslim religious organizations in the state have made this possible. A recent study by Zubair Hudawi, himself a madrasa graduate from Kerala and presently a doctoral candidate at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, titled ‘Development and Modernisation of Religious Education in Kerala: The Role of the Samastha Kerala Jameyyat ul-Ulama’, discusses this contribution in great detail.

The Samastha Kerala Jameyyat ul-Ulama (SKJU) represents a traditionalist theological position, quite opposed to Islamic modernists on numerous points. Yet, as Hudawi argues, it has not hesitated from championing modern education. Hudawi, who spent several years studying at the Dar ul-Huda Islamic Academy, the SKJU’s leading centre for higher Islamic education, seeks to explain this enigma through an in-depth analysis of the organisation’s evolution and development, arguing against the notion that the traditionalist ulema are necessarily and wholly opposed to ‘modernity’. He argues that the SKJU is an excellent example of a traditionalist Muslim religious organization that, rather than opposing ‘modernity’ outright, actually facilitates it, albeit selectively. Thus, today, he writes, the SKJU runs not just several thousand madrasas but also numerous English- and Malayalam-medium schools, and scores of women’s and technical colleges. Continue reading “Traditionalist ulema lead educational revolution in Kerala”

“Danish Queen Masterminded Muhammad Cartoon Affair”

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was the villain behind a hate campaign against Islam and Muslims which culminated in the Danish Cartoon affair. At least that is what some Danish imams maintain. On 30 September 2005 the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. According to the imams it was the Queen who instigated this when in April 2005 she urged the Danish people to resist Islam.

This allegation was made to Arab newspapers, officials and politicians by Danish imams, touring the Middle East nine months ago in order to stir up hatred and violence against Denmark. The imams claimed Margrethe had urged the Danes to fight the Muslim minority in the country.

This information was revealed last Summer by the Danish Foreign Ministry, which had been informed by Det Dansk-Egyptiske Dialoginstitut, the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute. The imams also claimed that the Danish government and the Danish people were behind the hate campaign. Hanna Ziadeh, the media researcher for the Det Dansk-Egyptiske Dialoginstitut, said the imams’ aim was to make the entire Danish people responsible for the Muhammad cartoons.

The imams also told the Islamic world that their voice was excluded from the Danish media and that more “horrible reviles” against Islam were being planned in Denmark, including blasphemous films and threats to burn down mosques. Ziadeh said the information he gathered was only from about ten interviews given by the imams to as many large Middle Eastern newspapers. However, the imams talked to many more Arab media, including several TV stations. Only a small part of the false information which the imams spread in the Middle East is actually known in the West. Continue reading ““Danish Queen Masterminded Muhammad Cartoon Affair””

Islamic Renaissance now


By Hamid Golpira

The Islamic world is at the crossroads — either we have an Islamic Renaissance now or we will experience many years of backwardness.

The Islamic world has been in decline for over five centuries.

Once we experienced a golden age, and there is good reason to mourn its loss.

But the Moor’s last sigh shouldn’t last 500 years.

Something must be done to rectify the problem now.

It seems that we need a bit of etherealization, which is an expression used by historian Arnold Toynbee to describe what takes place when a civilization is flourishing.

So how do we etherealize the Islamic world?

Well, first we have to understand what we got right in the golden age.

To start an Islamic Renaissance, we have to return to our roots, but this does not mean returning to the past as Taleban-type elements would like to do.

We have to balance modernity and tradition.

And this is what we got right at the advent of Islam and during the golden age.

We understood and adapted to the times we lived in while maintaining our religious ideals.

We had spirituality and also academic scholarship and science.

Muslims never had a great Dark Ages where science was superstitiously rejected like the Europeans experienced.

However, we are in the middle of a 500-year decline that is like a dark age.

We Muslims have to understand that we live in the Information Age.

Yet, we must learn how to balance Information Age modernity and Islamic tradition.

We should not become materialists with little or no spirituality, like the Westerners, but we should also not try to become spiritual people disconnected from the times we live in.

Everything is in the balance and we must learn to strike that balance.

The new Islamic Renaissance must be an Information Age Islamic Renaissance because this is the era we live in.

The beauty of Islam is that it is adaptable to every era.

When the Europeans were in the middle of their Dark Ages, the Islamic world reached the heights of art, culture, science, philosophy, literature, architecture, and many other fields.

Many historians say the Islamic civilization actually inspired the European Renaissance.

So what went wrong in the Islamic world?

The answer is obvious.

We forgot who we are. We lost our identity.

We lost sight of that beauty of Islam which is adaptable to every era.

Most of the Islamic world was colonized by the Europeans, and our identity crisis became exacerbated.

After the colonial era ended, we became the victims of neocolonialism.

Even the minds of most Muslims have become colonized in the ongoing cultural war.

South African revolutionary Steve Biko once said: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

The Muslims broke up into different groups.

One group is influenced by the Westerners and tries to be secular materialists like them. They are sometimes called moderate Muslims but most of them are not very Muslim at all in reality.

Another group rejects the West and has adopted a form of Islamic traditionalism that is sometimes called fundamentalism but which is really not fundamentalism because they are out of touch with the modern world, whereas the fundamental teachings of Islam require Muslims to be in tune with the times we live in.

A third group rejects both of these approaches and opts for a form of Islamic mysticism disengaged from the world, which is not really Islamic mysticism because true Islamic mystics are engaged with the world and seek to help people, especially the oppressed masses and those who are spiritually lost.

All of these groups are going in the wrong direction, but each of them also has a piece of the answer.

We Muslims must synthesize these three approaches to regain our identity and start the new Islamic Renaissance.

We must utilize Information Age technology, but avoid getting lost in materialism.

We must hold fast to the Islamic tradition and the Islamic law, the sharia, but avoid stiff interpretations of the law, arrogant self-righteousness, and intolerance.

And we must understand mysticism and live the mystical life, but avoid selfish individualism and narcissistic fantasy.

If we can do this, we can reconnect with the beauty of Islam which is adaptable to every era, balance modernity and tradition, regain our Islamic identity, and start the new Islamic Renaissance.

Science and the Islamic world—The quest for rapprochement

Internal causes led to the decline of Islam’s scientific greatness long before the era of mercantile imperialism. To contribute once again, Muslims must be introspective and ask what went wrong.

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

August 2007, page 49
This article grew out of the Max von Laue Lecture that I delivered earlier this year to celebrate that eminent physicist and man of strong social conscience. When Adolf Hitler was on the ascendancy, Laue was one of the very few German physicists of stature who dared to defend Albert Einstein and the theory of relativity. It therefore seems appropriate that a matter concerning science and civilization should be my concern here.

The question I want to pose—perhaps as much to myself as to anyone else—is this: With well over a billion Muslims and extensive material resources, why is the Islamic world disengaged from science and the process of creating new knowledge? To be definite, I am here using the 57 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as a proxy for the Islamic world.

It was not always this way. Islam’s magnificent Golden Age in the 9th–13th centuries brought about major advances in mathematics, science, and medicine. The Arabic language held sway in an age that created algebra, elucidated principles of optics, established the body’s circulation of blood, named stars, and created universities. But with the end of that period, science in the Islamic world essentially collapsed. No major invention or discovery has emerged from the Muslim world for well over seven centuries now. That arrested scientific development is one important element—although by no means the only one—that contributes to the present marginalization of Muslims and a growing sense of injustice and victimhood.

Such negative feelings must be checked before the gulf widens further. A bloody clash of civilizations, should it actually transpire, will surely rank along with the two other most dangerous challenges to life on our planet—climate change and nuclear proliferation.

First encounters

Islam’s encounter with science has had happy and unhappy periods. There was no science in Arab culture in the initial period of Islam, around 610 AD. But as Islam established itself politically and militarily, its territory expanded. In the mid-eighth century, Muslim conquerors came upon the ancient treasures of Greek learning. Translations from Greek into Arabic were ordered by liberal and enlightened caliphs, who filled their courts in Baghdad with visiting scholars from near and far. Politics was dominated by the rationalist Mutazilites, who sought to combine faith and reason in opposition to their rivals, the dogmatic Asharites. A generally tolerant and pluralistic Islamic culture allowed Muslims, Christians, and Jews to create new works of art and science together. But over time, the theological tensions between liberal and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam—such as on the issue of free will versus predestination—became intense and turned bloody. A resurgent religious orthodoxy eventually inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mutazilites. Thereafter, the open-minded pursuits of philosophy, mathematics, and science were increasingly relegated to the margins of Islam.1

Ottoman Empire astronomers

Figure 1

A long period of darkness followed, punctuated by occasional brilliant spots. In the 16th century, the Turkish Ottomans established an extensive empire with the help of military technology. But there was little enthusiasm for science and new knowledge (see figure 1). In the 19th century, the European Enlightenment inspired a wave of modernist Islamic reformers: Mohammed Abduh of Egypt, his follower Rashid Rida from Syria, and their counterparts on the Indian subcontinent, such as Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Jamaluddin Afghani, exhorted their fellow Muslims to accept ideas of the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution. Their theological position can be roughly paraphrased as, “The Qur’an tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” That echoed Galileo earlier in Europe. The 20th century witnessed the end of European colonial rule and the emergence of several new independent Muslim states, all initially under secular national leaderships. A spurt toward modernization and the acquisition of technology followed. Many expected that a Muslim scientific renaissance would ensue. Clearly, it did not.

What ails science in the Muslim world?

Nasser Hamdan/AUS

Figure 2

Muslim leaders today, realizing that military power and economic growth flow from technology, frequently call for speedy scientific development and a knowledge-based society. Often that call is rhetorical, but in some Muslim countries—Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Nigeria among others—official patronage and funding for science and education have grown sharply in recent years. Enlightened individual rulers, including Sultan ibn Muhammad Al-Qasimi of Sharjah, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar, and others have put aside some of their vast personal wealth for such causes (see figure 2 and the news story on page 33). No Muslim leader has publicly called for separating science from religion. Is boosting resource allocations enough to energize science, or are more fundamental changes required? Scholars of the 19th century, such as the pioneering sociologist Max Weber, claimed that Islam lacks an “idea system” critical for sustaining a scientific culture based on innovation, new experiences, quantification, and empirical verification. Fatalism and an orientation toward the past, they said, makes progress difficult and even undesirable.

In the current epoch of growing antagonism between the Islamic and the Western worlds, most Muslims reject such charges with angry indignation. They feel those accusations add yet another excuse for the West to justify its ongoing cultural and military assaults on Muslim populations. Muslims bristle at any hint that Islam and science may be at odds, or that some underlying conflict between Islam and science may account for the slowness of progress. The Qur’an, being the unaltered word of God, cannot be at fault: Muslims believe that if there is a problem, it must come from their inability to properly interpret and implement the Qur’an’s divine instructions.

In defending the compatibility of science and Islam, Muslims argue that Islam had sustained a vibrant intellectual culture throughout the European Dark Ages and thus, by extension, is also capable of a modern scientific culture. The Pakistani physics Nobel Prize winner, Abdus Salam, would stress to audiences that one-eighth of the Qur’an is a call for Muslims to seek Allah’s signs in the universe and hence that science is a spiritual as well as a temporal duty for Muslims. Perhaps the most widely used argument one hears is that the Prophet Muhammad had exhorted his followers to “seek knowledge even if it is in China,” which implies that a Muslim is duty-bound to search for secular knowledge.

Such arguments have been and will continue to be much debated, but they will not be pursued further here. Instead, let us seek to understand the state of science in the contemporary Islamic world. First, to the degree that available data allows, I will quantitatively assess the current state of science in Muslim countries. Then I will look at prevalent Muslim attitudes toward science, technology, and modernity, with an eye toward identifying specific cultural and social practices that work against progress. Finally, we can turn to the fundamental question: What will it take to bring science back into the Islamic world?

Measuring Muslim scientific progress

The metrics of scientific progress are neither precise nor unique. Science permeates our lives in myriad ways, means different things to different people, and has changed its content and scope drastically over the course of history. In addition, the paucity of reliable and current data makes the task of assessing scientific progress in Muslim countries still harder.

I will use the following reasonable set of four metrics:

  • The quantity of scientific output, weighted by some reasonable measure of relevance and importance;
  • The role played by science and technology in the national economies, funding for S&T, and the size of the national scientific enterprises;
  • The extent and quality of higher education; and
  • The degree to which science is present or absent in popular culture.

Scientific output

A useful, if imperfect, indicator of scientific output is the number of published scientific research papers, together with the citations to them. Table 1 shows the output of the seven most scientifically productive Muslim countries for physics papers, over the period from 1 January 1997 to 28 February 2007, together with the total number of publications in all scientific fields. A comparison with Brazil, India, China, and the US reveals significantly smaller numbers. A study by academics at the International Islamic University Malaysia2 showed that OIC countries have 8.5 scientists, engineers, and technicians per 1000 population, compared with a world average of 40.7, and 139.3 for countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (For more on the OECD, see http://www.oecd.org.) Forty-six Muslim countries contributed 1.17% of the world’s science literature, whereas 1.66% came from India alone and 1.48% from Spain. Twenty Arab countries contributed 0.55%, compared with 0.89% by Israel alone. The US NSF records that of the 28 lowest producers of scientific articles in 2003, half belong to the OIC.3

The situation may be even grimmer than the publication numbers or perhaps even the citation counts suggest. Assessing the scientific worth of publications—never an easy task—is complicated further by the rapid appearance of new international scientific journals that publish low-quality work. Many have poor editorial policies and refereeing procedures. Scientists in many developing countries, who are under pressure to publish, or who are attracted by strong government incentives, choose to follow the path of least resistance paved for them by the increasingly commercialized policies of journals. Prospective authors know that editors need to produce a journal of a certain thickness every month. In addition to considerable anecdotal evidence for these practices, there have been a few systematic studies. For example,4 chemistry publications by Iranian scientists tripled in five years, from 1040 in 1998 to 3277 in 2003. Many scientific papers that were claimed as original by their Iranian chemist authors, and that had been published in internationally peer-reviewed journals, had actually been published twice and sometimes thrice with identical or nearly identical contents by the same authors. Others were plagiarized papers that could have been easily detected by any reasonably careful referee.

The situation regarding patents is also discouraging: The OIC countries produce negligibly few. According to official statistics, Pakistan has produced only eight patents in the past 43 years.

Islamic countries show a great diversity of cultures and levels of modernization and a correspondingly large spread in scientific productivity. Among the larger countries—in both population and political importance—Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and Pakistan are the most scientifically developed. Among the smaller countries, such as the central Asian republics, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan rank considerably above Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Malaysia—a rather atypical Muslim country with a 40% non-Muslim minority—is much smaller than neighboring Indonesia but is nevertheless more productive. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and other states that have many foreign scientists are scientifically far ahead of other Arab states.

National scientific enterprises

Conventional wisdom suggests that bigger science budgets indicate, or will induce, greater scientific activity. On average, the 57 OIC states spend an estimated 0.3% of their gross national product on research and development, which is far below the global average of 2.4%. But the trend toward higher spending is unambiguous. Rulers in the UAE and Qatar are building several new universities with manpower imported from the West for both construction and staffing. In June 2006, Nigeria’s president Olusegun Obasanjo announced he will plow $5 billion of oil money into R&D. Iran increased its R&D spending dramatically, from a pittance in 1988 at the end of the Iraq–Iran war, to a current level of 0.4% of its gross domestic product. Saudi Arabia announced that it spent 26% of its development budget on science and education in 2006, and sent 5000 students to US universities on full scholarships. Pakistan set a world record by increasing funding for higher education and science by an immense 800% over the past five years.

But bigger budgets by themselves are not a panacea. The capacity to put those funds to good use is crucial. One determining factor is the number of available scientists, engineers, and technicians. Those numbers are low for OIC countries, averaging around 400–500 per million people, while developed countries typically lie in the range of 3500–5000 per million. Even more important are the quality and level of professionalism, which are less easily quantifiable. But increasing funding without adequately addressing such crucial concerns can lead to a null correlation between scientific funding and performance.

The role played by science in creating high technology is an important science indicator. Comparing table 1 with table 2 shows there is little correlation between academic research papers and the role of S&T in the national economies of the seven listed countries. The anomalous position of Malaysia in table 2 has its explanation in the large direct investment made by multinational companies and in having trading partners that are overwhelmingly non-OIC countries.

FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS

Figure 3

Although not apparent in table 2, there are scientific areas in which research has paid off in the Islamic world. Agricultural research—which is relatively simple science—provides one case in point. Pakistan has good results, for example, with new varieties of cotton, wheat, rice, and tea. Defense technology is another area in which many developing countries have invested, as they aim to both lessen their dependence on international arms suppliers and promote domestic capabilities. Pakistan manufactures nuclear weapons and intermediate-range missiles. There is now also a burgeoning, increasingly export-oriented Pakistani arms industry (figure 3) that turns out a large range of weapons from grenades to tanks, night-vision devices to laser-guided weapons, and small submarines to training aircraft. Export earnings exceed $150 million yearly. Although much of the production is a triumph of reverse engineering rather than original research and development, there is clearly sufficient understanding of the requisite scientific principles and a capacity to exercise technical and managerial judgment as well. Iran has followed Pakistan’s example.

Higher education

According to a recent survey, among the 57 member states of the OIC, there are approximately 1800 universities.5 Of those, only 312 publish journal articles. A ranking of the 50 most published among them yields these numbers: 26 are in Turkey, 9 in Iran, 3 each in Malaysia and Egypt, 2 in Pakistan, and 1 in each of Uganda, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, and Azerbaijan. For the top 20 universities, the average yearly production of journal articles was about 1500, a small but reasonable number. However, the average citation per article is less than 1.0 (the survey report does not state whether self-citations were excluded). There are fewer data available for comparing against universities worldwide. Two Malaysian undergraduate institutions were in the top-200 list of the Times Higher Education Supplement in 2006 (available at http://www.thes.co.uk). No OIC university made the top-500 “Academic Ranking of World Universities” compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (see http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/en). This state of affairs led the director general of the OIC to issue an appeal for at least 20 OIC universities to be sufficiently elevated in quality to make the top-500 list. No action plan was specified, nor was the term “quality” defined.

An institution’s quality is fundamental, but how is it to be defined? Providing more infrastructure and facilities is important but not key. Most universities in Islamic countries have a starkly inferior quality of teaching and learning, a tenuous connection to job skills, and research that is low in both quality and quantity. Poor teaching owes more to inappropriate attitudes than to material resources. Generally, obedience and rote learning are stressed, and the authority of the teacher is rarely challenged. Debate, analysis, and class discussions are infrequent.

Academic and cultural freedoms on campuses are highly restricted in most Muslim countries. At Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, where I teach, the constraints are similar to those existing in most other Pakistani public-sector institutions. This university serves the typical middle-class Pakistani student and, according to the survey referred to earlier,5 ranks number two among OIC universities. Here, as in other Pakistani public universities, films, drama, and music are frowned on, and sometimes even physical attacks by student vigilantes who believe that such pursuits violate Islamic norms take place. The campus has three mosques with a fourth one planned, but no bookstore. No Pakistani university, including QAU, allowed Abdus Salam to set foot on its campus, although he had received the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his role in formulating the standard model of particle physics. The Ahmedi sect to which he belonged, and which had earlier been considered to be Muslim, was officially declared heretical in 1974 by the Pakistani government.

Ishaque Choudhry

Figure 4

As intolerance and militancy sweep across the Muslim world, personal and academic freedoms diminish with the rising pressure to conform. In Pakistani universities, the veil is now ubiquitous, and the last few unveiled women students are under intense pressure to cover up. The head of the government-funded mosque-cum-seminary (figure 4) in the heart of Islamabad, the nation’s capital, issued the following chilling warning to my university’s female students and faculty on his FM radio channel on 12 April 2007:

The government should abolish co-education. Quaid-i-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses. . . . Sportswomen are spreading nudity. I warn the sportswomen of Islamabad to stop participating in sports. . . . Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it. There are far more horrible punishments in the hereafter for such women.6

The imposition of the veil makes a difference. My colleagues and I share a common observation that over time most students—particularly veiled females—have largely lapsed into becoming silent note-takers, are increasingly timid, and are less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. This lack of self-expression and confidence leads to most Pakistani university students, including those in their mid- or late-twenties, referring to themselves as boys and girls rather than as men and women.

Science and religion still at odds

Science is under pressure globally, and from every religion. As science becomes an increasingly dominant part of human culture, its achievements inspire both awe and fear. Creationism and intelligent design, curbs on genetic research, pseudoscience, parapsychology, belief in UFOs, and so on are some of its manifestations in the West. Religious conservatives in the US have rallied against the teaching of Darwinian evolution. Extreme Hindu groups such as the Vishnu Hindu Parishad, which has called for ethnic cleansing of Christians and Muslims, have promoted various “temple miracles,” including one in which an elephant-like God miraculously came alive and started drinking milk. Some extremist Jewish groups also derive additional political strength from antiscience movements. For example, certain American cattle tycoons have for years been working with Israeli counterparts to try to breed a pure red heifer in Israel, which, by their interpretation of chapter 19 of the Book of Numbers, will signal the coming of the building of the Third Temple,7 an event that would ignite the Middle East.

In the Islamic world, opposition to science in the public arena takes additional forms. Antiscience materials have an immense presence on the internet, with thousands of elaborately designed Islamic websites, some with view counters running into the hundreds of thousands. A typical and frequently visited one has the following banner: “Recently discovered astounding scientific facts, accurately described in the Muslim Holy Book and by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 14 centuries ago.” Here one will find that everything from quantum mechanics to black holes and genes was anticipated 1400 years ago.

Science, in the view of fundamentalists, is principally seen as valuable for establishing yet more proofs of God, proving the truth of Islam and the Qur’an, and showing that modern science would have been impossible but for Muslim discoveries. Antiquity alone seems to matter. One gets the impression that history’s clock broke down somewhere during the 14th century and that plans for repair are, at best, vague. In that all-too-prevalent view, science is not about critical thought and awareness, creative uncertainties, or ceaseless explorations. Missing are websites or discussion groups dealing with the philosophical implications from the Islamic point of view of the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, superstrings, stem cells, and other contemporary science issues.

Similarly, in the mass media of Muslim countries, discussions on “Islam and science” are common and welcomed only to the extent that belief in the status quo is reaffirmed rather than challenged. When the 2005 earthquake struck Pakistan, killing more than 90 000 people, no major scientist in the country publicly challenged the belief, freely propagated through the mass media, that the quake was God’s punishment for sinful behavior. Mullahs ridiculed the notion that science could provide an explanation; they incited their followers into smashing television sets, which had provoked Allah’s anger and hence the earthquake. As several class discussions showed, an overwhelming majority of my university’s science students accepted various divine-wrath explanations.

Why the slow development?

Although the relatively slow pace of scientific development in Muslim countries cannot be disputed, many explanations can and some common ones are plain wrong.

For example, it is a myth that women in Muslim countries are largely excluded from higher education. In fact, the numbers are similar to those in many Western countries: The percentage of women in the university student body is 35% in Egypt, 67% in Kuwait, 27% in Saudi Arabia, and 41% in Pakistan, for just a few examples. In the physical sciences and engineering, the proportion of women enrolled is roughly similar to that in the US. However, restrictions on the freedom of women leave them with far fewer choices, both in their personal lives and for professional advancement after graduation, relative to their male counterparts.

The near-absence of democracy in Muslim countries is also not an especially important reason for slow scientific development. It is certainly true that authoritarian regimes generally deny freedom of inquiry or dissent, cripple professional societies, intimidate universities, and limit contacts with the outside world. But no Muslim government today, even if dictatorial or imperfectly democratic, remotely approximates the terror of Hitler or Joseph Stalin—regimes in which science survived and could even advance.

Another myth is that the Muslim world rejects new technology. It does not. In earlier times, the orthodoxy had resisted new inventions such as the printing press, loudspeaker, and penicillin, but such rejection has all but vanished. The ubiquitous cell phone, that ultimate space-age device, epitomizes the surprisingly quick absorption of black-box technology into Islamic culture. For example, while driving in Islamabad, it would occasion no surprise if you were to receive an urgent SMS (short message service) requesting immediate prayers for helping Pakistan’s cricket team win a match. Popular new Islamic cell-phone models now provide the exact GPS-based direction for Muslims to face while praying, certified translations of the Qur’an, and step-by-step instructions for performing the pilgrimages of Haj and Umrah. Digital Qur’ans are already popular, and prayer rugs with microchips (for counting bend-downs during prayers) have made their debut.

Some relatively more plausible reasons for the slow scientific development of Muslim countries have been offered. First, even though a handful of rich oil-producing Muslim countries have extravagant incomes, most are fairly poor and in the same boat as other developing countries. Indeed, the OIC average for per capita income is significantly less than the global average. Second, the inadequacy of traditional Islamic languages—Arabic, Persian, Urdu—is an important contributory reason. About 80% of the world’s scientific literature appears first in English, and few traditional languages in the developing world have adequately adapted to new linguistic demands. With the exceptions of Iran and Turkey, translation rates are small. According to a 2002 United Nations report written by Arab intellectuals and released in Cairo, Egypt, “The entire Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one-fifth the number that Greece translates.” The report adds that in the 1000 years since the reign of the caliph Maa’moun, the Arabs have translated as many books as Spain translates in just one year.8

It’s the thought that counts

But the still deeper reasons are attitudinal, not material. At the base lies the yet unresolved tension between traditional and modern modes of thought and social behavior.

That assertion needs explanation. No grand dispute, such as between Galileo and Pope Urban VIII, is holding back the clock. Bread-and-butter science and technology requires learning complicated but mundane rules and procedures that place no strain on any reasonable individual’s belief system. A bridge engineer, robotics expert, or microbiologist can certainly be a perfectly successful professional without pondering profound mysteries of the universe. Truly fundamental and ideology-laden issues confront only that tiny minority of scientists who grapple with cosmology, indeterminacy in quantum mechanical and chaotic systems, neuroscience, human evolution, and other such deep topics. Therefore, one could conclude that developing science is only a matter of setting up enough schools, universities, libraries, and laboratories, and purchasing the latest scientific tools and equipment.

But the above reasoning is superficial and misleading. Science is fundamentally an idea-system that has grown around a sort of skeleton wire frame—the scientific method. The deliberately cultivated scientific habit of mind is mandatory for successful work in all science and related fields where critical judgment is essential. Scientific progress constantly demands that facts and hypotheses be checked and rechecked, and is unmindful of authority. But there lies the problem: The scientific method is alien to traditional, unreformed religious thought. Only the exceptional individual is able to exercise such a mindset in a society in which absolute authority comes from above, questions are asked only with difficulty, the penalties for disbelief are severe, the intellect is denigrated, and a certainty exists that all answers are already known and must only be discovered.

Science finds every soil barren in which miracles are taken literally and seriously and revelation is considered to provide authentic knowledge of the physical world. If the scientific method is trashed, no amount of resources or loud declarations of intent to develop science can compensate. In those circumstances, scientific research becomes, at best, a kind of cataloging or “butterfly-collecting” activity. It cannot be a creative process of genuine inquiry in which bold hypotheses are made and checked.

Religious fundamentalism is always bad news for science. But what explains its meteoric rise in Islam over the past half century? In the mid-1950s all Muslim leaders were secular, and secularism in Islam was growing. What changed? Here the West must accept its share of responsibility for reversing the trend. Iran under Mohammed Mossadeq, Indonesia under Ahmed Sukarno, and Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser are examples of secular but nationalist governments that wanted to protect their national wealth. Western imperial greed, however, subverted and overthrew them. At the same time, conservative oil-rich Arab states—such as Saudi Arabia—that exported extreme versions of Islam were US clients. The fundamentalist Hamas organization was helped by Israel in its fight against the secular Palestine Liberation Organization as part of a deliberate Israeli strategy in the 1980s. Perhaps most important, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the US Central Intelligence Agency armed the fiercest and most ideologically charged Islamic fighters and brought them from distant Muslim countries into Afghanistan, thus helping to create an extensive globalized jihad network. Today, as secularism continues to retreat, Islamic fundamentalism fills the vacuum.

How science can return to the Islamic world

In the 1980s an imagined “Islamic science” was posed as an alternative to “Western science.” The notion was widely propagated and received support from governments in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere. Muslim ideologues in the US, such as Ismail Faruqi and Syed Hossein Nasr, announced that a new science was about to be built on lofty moral principles such as tawheed (unity of God), ibadah (worship), khilafah (trusteeship), and rejection of zulm (tyranny), and that revelation rather than reason would be the ultimate guide to valid knowledge. Others took as literal statements of scientific fact verses from the Qur’an that related to descriptions of the physical world. Those attempts led to many elaborate and expensive Islamic science conferences around the world. Some scholars calculated the temperature of Hell, others the chemical composition of heavenly djinnis. None produced a new machine or instrument, conducted an experiment, or even formulated a single testable hypothesis.

A more pragmatic approach, which seeks promotion of regular science rather than Islamic science, is pursued by institutional bodies such as COMSTECH (Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation), which was established by the OIC’s Islamic Summit in 1981. It joined the IAS (Islamic Academy of Sciences) and ISESCO (Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in serving the “ummah” (the global Muslim community). But a visit to the websites of those organizations reveals that over two decades, the combined sum of their activities amounts to sporadically held conferences on disparate subjects, a handful of research and travel grants, and small sums for repair of equipment and spare parts.

One almost despairs. Will science never return to the Islamic world? Shall the world always be split between those who have science and those who do not, with all the attendant consequences?

Figure 5

Bleak as the present looks, that outcome does not have to prevail. History has no final word, and Muslims do have a chance. One need only remember how the Anglo–American elite perceived the Jews as they entered the US at the opening of the 20th century. Academics such as Henry Herbert Goddard, the well-known eugenicist, described Jews in 1913 as “a hopelessly backward people, largely incapable of adjusting to the new demands of advanced capitalist societies.” His research found that 83% of Jews were “morons”—a term he popularized to describe the feeble-minded—and he went on to suggest that they should be used for tasks requiring an “immense amount of drudgery.” That ludicrous bigotry warrants no further discussion, beyond noting that the powerful have always created false images of the weak. Progress will require behavioral changes. If Muslim societies are to develop technology instead of just using it, the ruthlessly competitive global marketplace will insist on not only high skill levels but also intense social work habits. The latter are not easily reconcilable with religious demands made on a fully observant Muslim’s time, energy, and mental concentration: The faithful must participate in five daily congregational prayers, endure a month of fasting that taxes the body, recite daily from the Qur’an, and more. Although such duties orient believers admirably well toward success in the life hereafter, they make worldly success less likely. A more balanced approach will be needed.

Science can prosper among Muslims once again, but only with a willingness to accept certain basic philosophical and attitudinal changes—a Weltanschauung that shrugs off the dead hand of tradition, rejects fatalism and absolute belief in authority, accepts the legitimacy of temporal laws, values intellectual rigor and scientific honesty, and respects cultural and personal freedoms. The struggle to usher in science will have to go side-by-side with a much wider campaign to elbow out rigid orthodoxy and bring in modern thought, arts, philosophy, democracy, and pluralism.

Respected voices among believing Muslims see no incompatibility between the above requirements and true Islam as they understand it. For example, Abdolkarim Soroush, described as Islam’s Martin Luther, was handpicked by Ayatollah Khomeini to lead the reform of Iran’s universities in the early 1980s. His efforts led to the introduction of modern analytical philosophers such as Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell into the curricula of Iranian universities. Another influential modern reformer is Abdelwahab Meddeb, a Tunisian who grew up in France. Meddeb argues that as early as the middle of the eighth century, Islam had produced the premises of the Enlightenment, and that between 750 and 1050, Muslim authors made use of an astounding freedom of thought in their approach to religious belief. In their analyses, says Meddeb, they bowed to the primacy of reason, honoring one of the basic principles of the Enlightenment.

In the quest for modernity and science, internal struggles continue within the Islamic world. Progressive Muslim forces have recently been weakened, but not extinguished, as a consequence of the confrontation between Muslims and the West. On an ever-shrinking globe, there can be no winners in that conflict: It is time to calm the waters. We must learn to drop the pursuit of narrow nationalist and religious agendas, both in the West and among Muslims. In the long run, political boundaries should and can be treated as artificial and temporary, as shown by the successful creation of the European Union. Just as important, the practice of religion must be a matter of choice for the individual, not enforced by the state. This leaves secular humanism, based on common sense and the principles of logic and reason, as our only reasonable choice for governance and progress. Being scientists, we understand this easily. The task is to persuade those who do not.

Pervez Hoodbhoy is chair and professor in the department of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he has taught for 34 years.

References

  1. 1. P. Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science—Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality, Zed Books, London (1991).
  2. 2. M. A. Anwar, A. B. Abu Bakar, Scientometrics 40, 23 (1997).
  3. 3. For additional statistics, see the special issue “Islam and Science,” Nature 444, 19 (2006).
  4. 4. M. Yalpani, A. Heydari, Chem. Biodivers. 2, 730 (2005).
  5. 5. Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries, Academic Rankings of Universities in the OIC Countries (April 2007), available at [LINK].
  6. 6. The News, Islamabad, 24 April 2007, available at [LINK].
  7. 7. For more information on the red heifer venture, see [LINK].
  8. 8. N. Fergany et al., Arab Human Development Report 2002, United Nations Development Programme, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, New York (2002), available at [LINK].

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Pagans as Patriots: Freedom vs. Prejudice

The U.S. Air Force recently released new data indicating that Pagans (sometimes called Wiccans) have nearly 1,000 registered members, more than Muslims or Jews. Of course they should have their own chaplain in the military since there are Pagan adherents serving their country. Pagans are as entitled to having their religious needs met as are Southern Baptists. Religious freedom is religious freedom is religious freedom. That cannot be said too frequently today.

Paganism is very poorly understood. It is sometimes called “the Old Religion” as it claims to be a revival of indigenous religious traditions violently suppressed by Christianity as it spread throughout Europe. Contemporary Pagans or Wiccans celebrate diversity and put a high premium on personal responsibility and not doing harm. Feminists such as Feminists have been prominent in contemporary Wicca or Paganism and emphasize the repressed Goddess traditions and the spirituality of women as expressed in witchcraft.

Paganism has an important role to play in American religious culture as it explicitly regards women as capable of embodying the sacred. It has been my personal experience that conservative Christianity in particular regards all women, regardless of their faith, as vaguely Pagan. Christian conservatives do not value women’s religious leadership as highly as that of males. Women are called the “weaker vessel” and considered less capable of embodying the sacred. This is why women are not ordained by Catholics and conservative Protestants. Women are deemed incapable of “imagining Christ” despite the fact that Genesis 1:27 clearly states that both female and male are created in the image of God. Continue reading “Pagans as Patriots: Freedom vs. Prejudice”

The original sin in Islam

According to Wikipedia

Unlike Christianity, which teaches that all the children of Adam are sinful for Adam’s sin, Islam teaches that all humans are innocent by birth and they become sinful only when they consciously commit a sin. Islam regards the concept of “original sin” and the need for atonement by God Himself – via dying on the Cross – as a pure invention of those who came after Jesus Christ, declaring themselves as Christians.

Another important point to bear in mind about the Islamic concept of sin is that one man’s sin cannot be transferred to another; nor can the reward due to a person be transferred either. Every individual is responsible only for his or her actions, for God is never unjust. This is made clear in the following in Surah 17, verse 25:

  • {Who receiveth guidance, receiveth it for his own benefit: who goeth astray doth so to his own loss. No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another: nor would We punish until We had sent a messenger [to give warning].}*

[edit] Excerpts from Qur’an

Is it certain that it was Adam and not Eve who was tempted? Irrespective of this, both are forgiven together, the concept being that Man and Woman were created equally, by God, of the same material and therefore have equal rights to redemption.

This episode is mentioned in the Qur’an in several places. Amongst them are:

  • But the Satan made them both fall from it, and caused them to depart from that (state) in which they were; and We said: Get forth, some of you being the enemies of others, and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time. 2:36
  • But the Shaitan made an evil suggestion to them that he might make manifest to them what had been hidden from them of their evil inclinations, and he said: Your Lord has not forbidden you this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals. And he swore to them both: Most surely I am a sincere adviser to you. Then he caused them to fall by deceit; so when they tasted of the tree, their evil inclinations became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with the leaves of the garden; and their Lord called out to them: Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Shaitan is your open enemy? They said: Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers. 7:20-23

Adam and Eve are forgiven by God after they repent:

  • Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, so He turned to him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful. 2:37

Therefore, the idea that the sin propagates to their offspring is categorically refused by Muslims, citing verses such as:

  • Say: What! shall I seek a Lord other than Allah? And He is the Lord of all things; and no soul earns (evil) but against itself, and no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another; then to your Lord is your return, so He will inform you of that in which you differed. 6:164
  • Allah does not impose upon any soul a duty but to the extent of its ability; for it is (the benefit of) what it has earned and upon it (the evil of) what it has wrought: Our Lord! do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake; Our Lord! do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us, Our Lord do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and grant us protection and have mercy on us, Thou art our Patron, so help us against the unbelieving people. 2:286

That is to say, all children are born without sin in the state of purity.

CATEGORISATION OF MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS:


Religions of the world can be broadly categorized into Semitic religions and non-Semitic religions. Non-Semitic religions can be divided into Aryan religions and non-Aryan religions.

Semitic religions

Semitic religions arereligions that originated among the Semites. According to the Bible, Prophet Noah (pbuh) had a son called Shem.

The descendents of Shem areknown as Semites. Therefore, Semitic religions are the religions that originated among the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Phoenicians, etc. Major Semitic religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All these religions are Prophetic religions that believe in Divine Guidance sent through prophets of God.

Non-Semitic religions

The non-Semitic religions are further subdivided into Aryan and non-Aryan religions:

Aryan Religions

Aryan religions are the religions that originated among the Aryans, a powerful group of Indo-European speaking people that spread through Iran and Northern India in the first half of the second Millenium BC (2000 to 1500 BC).

The Aryan Religions are further sub divided into Vedic and non-Vedic religions.

The Vedic Religionis given the misnomer of Hinduism or Brahminism. The non-Vedic Religions are Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc.

Almost all Aryan religions are non-Prophetic religions.

Zoroastrianism is an Aryan, non-Vedic religion, which is not associated with Hinduism. It claims to be a prophetic religion.

Non-Aryan Religions

The non-Aryan religions have diverse origins. Confucianism and Taoism are of Chinese origin while Shintoism is of Japanese origin.

Many of these non-Aryan religions do not have a concept of God. They are better referred to as ethical systems rather than as religions.

mezquitas (mosques) of Cordoba,Spain


The Great Mosque of Cordoba extended and revised architectural review

When the Umayyad were supplanted by the Abbasids in 750 and the centre of Islam relocated from Damascus, Syria to Baghdad, Iraq, a Umayyad prince named Abed Al-Rahman I moved to Spain where Muslims were already established & founded a dynasty with Cordoba as its capital. The kingdom flourished, lasting for nearly 300 years (756-1031). In 929 a restored Umayyad caliphate was set up in Cordoba, in rivalry with the Abbasids in Baghdad: by any standard, Cordoba was the richest, most sophisticated city in Europe.

The Great Mosque of
Cordoba’s original construction under Abed Al-Rahman I – Part 1
The Great Mosque of
Cordoba‘s original construction under Abed Al-Rahman I – Part 2
The first mosque extension under Abed Al-Rahman II
Building work on the Great Mosque of Cordoba by Abed AI-Rahman III

The extension under al-Hakam II
The last extension under Al-Mansor

The Great Mosque Of Cordoba’s Pictures



Magnificent
Interiors

The Great Mosque, Cordoba

 

The Great Mosque of Cordoba’s original construction under Abed Al-Rahman I – Part 1
The Great Mosque of
Cordoba‘s original construction under Abed Al-Rahman I – Part 2
The first mosque extension under Abed Al-Rahman II
Building work on the Great Mosque of Cordoba by Abed AI-Rahman III

The extension under al-Hakam II
The last extension under Al-Mansor

The Great Mosque Of Cordoba’s Pictures

Mosques in Spain

n/a

Related books

Islamic Art and Architecture: From Isfahan to the Taj Mahal Art historian Henri Stierlin explores a dazzling 1,000-year-old decorative tradition in Islamic Art and Architecture: From Isfahan to the Taj Mahal.

Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain The Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain offers a new interpretation of the history of gardens in Spain during the period of Islamic rule from the eighth through the fifteenth centuries.

Muslims challenge Christians’ use of Cordoba mosque

 

Europe Features

By Sinikka Tarvainen Jan 3, 2007, 8:29 GMT

‘; var PageContent= ‘Cordoba/Madrid – Few buildings are as emblematic of Europe\’s Muslim past as the Great Mosque in Cordoba.

\nThe southern Spanish city was once the capital of Moorish Spain, where the mosque was promoted as the third Islamic pilgrimage site after the Kaaba of Mecca and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

\nDeclared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1984, the stunning mosque pays tribute to the architectural and artistic achievements of Muslim Spain, which also shone as a beacon of science and scholarship in 10th-century Europe.

\nCordoba residents still often call the building \’mezquita\’ (mosque), though it has in fact been used as a cathedral since the 13th century when Christian troops conquered the city from the Moors.

\nA mysterious dim light typical of Catholic churches now surrounds the forest of pillars ending in red-and-white-striped arches, which has been compared to a Muslim tent in the desert.

\nA Catholic altar, a choir stall and chapels have been erected inside, mingling with Islamic features such as the mihrab or prayer niche.

\nSo who does the building, with a prayer hall measuring 23,400 square metres, belong to?

\nIs it the heritage of Arab-Berber-Spanish Moors, who ruled large parts of Spain for some 800 years and for whom emir Abd ar-Rahman I started building it in the 8th century?

\nOr does it belong to Christians, who completed their Reconquest of Spain from the Moors in 1492 and whose King Charles V financed the mosque\’s definitive conversion into a cathedral in the 16th century?

\nUntil recently, few Spaniards questioned the Catholic Church\’s exclusive use of the building, but the arrival of some 800,000 mainly Moroccan Muslim immigrants over the recent years has raised new questions about the sanctuary.

\nThousands of Spaniards have also reclaimed their Muslim roots, converting to Islam in cities such as Granada, once a Moorish stronghold.

\nMansur Escudero, a convert who heads Spain\’s Islamic Board, prayed in front of the mosque recently to claim Muslims\’ right to use it for prayer.

\nThe board has written to Pope Benedict XVI, proposing that the mosque be turned into an ecumenic temple where Christians, Muslims and representatives of other religions could pray together and \’bury past confrontations.\’

\nIt has sent a similar letter to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

\nSpain\’s Islamic organizations have distanced themselves from Osama bin Laden\’s call on Muslims to \’reclaim Al-Andalus,\’ the traditional name for Moorish Spain.

\nThey condemned the 2004 Madrid train bombings, staged mainly by Moroccan Islamists, which killed 191 people.

\nThe mosque, a building with an \’enormous symbolic power,\’ could show the way for a \’universal spirituality,\’ Audalla Conget, secretary of the Islamic Board, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in a telephone interview.

\n\’Spain could be the key that opens the door to peace,\’ he says, recalling the Moorish period when Christians, Muslims and Jews lived in a relative harmony.

\nAfter the Reconquest, however, Spanish identity was largely based on a militant brand of Catholicism as a sign of differentiation from Islam.

\nIt is only recently that Spaniards have begun toning down traditions which could be offensive to Muslims, for instance removing a statue of Saint James \’the Moorslayer\’ from Santiago de Compostela cathedral.

\nSome villages have modified traditional plays or spectacles in which \’Christians\’ kill \’Moors.\’

\nRicardo Blazquez, the head of Spain\’s Episcopal Conference, initially showed sympathy towards the idea of Muslims praying at the Cordoba mosque, but the conference quickly issued a statement saying he had not authorized any Islamic prayers at the cathedral.

\nCordoba bishop Juan Jose Asenjo rejected the Islamic Board\’s request, saying joint use of the temple would confuse believers and promote religious indifference.

\nThe Vatican has rejected earlier petitions by Muslims to pray at the Cordoba mosque, but Conget was hopeful that Benedict XVI would have a more favourable attitude.

\nThe Cordoba bishop\’s negative answer contrasts with \’interesting gestures\’ by the pope, such as praying at an Istanbul mosque, he said.

\nA spokeswoman at the Cordoba bishop\’s office declined to comment, saying the office had \’nothing to add\’ to what the bishop said earlier.

\n© 2007 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur‘; PrintArticle();//–>

Cordoba/Madrid – Few buildings are as emblematic of Europe’s Muslim past as the Great Mosque in Cordoba.

The southern Spanish city was once the capital of Moorish Spain, where the mosque was promoted as the third Islamic pilgrimage site after the Kaaba of Mecca and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Declared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1984, the stunning mosque pays tribute to the architectural and artistic achievements of Muslim Spain, which also shone as a beacon of science and scholarship in 10th-century Europe.

Cordoba residents still often call the building ‘mezquita’ (mosque), though it has in fact been used as a cathedral since the 13th century when Christian troops conquered the city from the Moors.

A mysterious dim light typical of Catholic churches now surrounds the forest of pillars ending in red-and-white-striped arches, which has been compared to a Muslim tent in the desert.

A Catholic altar, a choir stall and chapels have been erected inside, mingling with Islamic features such as the mihrab or prayer niche. Continue reading “Muslims challenge Christians’ use of Cordoba mosque”

Islam’s Claim on Spain

The white minaret of the new Great Mosque of Granada doesn’t overshadow a nearby church but is nonetheless a testament to Spanish Muslims’ pride in their history in “Al Andalus,” the region of southern Spain now known as Andalusia

GRANADA, Spain – Across a valley of fragrant cedars and orange trees, worshipers at the pristine Great Mosque of Granada look out at the Alhambra, the 700-year-old citadel and monument to the heyday of Islamic glory.

Granada’s Muslims chose the hilltop location precisely with the view, and its unmistakable symbolism, in mind.

It took them more than 20 years to build the mosque, the first erected here in half a millennium, after they conquered the objections of city leaders and agreed, ultimately, to keep the minaret shorter than the steeple on the Catholic Iglesia de San Nicolas next door.

Cloistered nuns on the other side of the mosque added a few feet to the wall enclosing their convent, as if to say they wanted neither to be seen nor to see.

Many of Spain’s Muslims long for an Islamic revival to reclaim their legendary history, and inaugurating the Great Mosque last year was the most visible gesture. But horrific bombings by Muslim extremists that killed nearly 200 people in Madrid on March 11 have forced Spain’s Muslims and non-Muslims to reassess their relationship, and turned historical assumptions on their head.

“We are a people trying to return to our roots,” said Anwar Gonzalez, 34, a Granada native who converted to Islam 17 years ago. “But it’s a bad time to be a Muslim.”

Spain has a long, rich and complex history interwoven with the Muslim and Arab world, from its position as the center of Islamic Europe in the last millennium to today’s confrontation with a vast influx of Muslim immigrants. Continue reading “Islam’s Claim on Spain”

Does the Quran or Muhammad promote violence?

 
 

 

 

     

 

1


Audio Does the Quran or Muhammad promote violence?

Does the Quran or Muhammad promote violence?

By: Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
IslamiCity* –

 

Toward Understanding Muhammad:
Some issues in peace and violence

 

In the aftermath of September 11 when President Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington DC, both to reassure the Muslims in America and to create public awareness against prejudice, he remarked: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” Of course, Bush is, first and foremost, a politician and therefore his remarks should be taken with a grain of salt – actually, a lot of salt.

 

The American President was quickly rebuffed even by a number of his compatriots, who vehemently disagreed with the President’s diplomatic stance. “… a large number of foreign policy hawks — some of them with advisory roles in the Bush administration — have joined religious conservatives in taking issue with Bush’s characterizations. … they say the claim is dishonest and destined to fail.” [Conservatives Dispute Bush Portrayal of Islam as Peaceful] A pro-Israel, conservative or neocon, Daniel Pipes, sermonized that since calls for “Death to America” in 1979 in Iran, “… some 600 Americans have been murdered by militant Muslims. And still the U.S. government fails to ‘proclaim militant Islam our strategic enemy’ but instead goes along with blandishments about ‘good Muslims’ and ‘true Islam’ being a religion of peace.” [Militant Islam Is Still Enemy No.1]

 

In contrast to the above two categories of non-Muslim stance, there are two parallel camps within Muslims. One camp on the fringe has no qualms in taking a public position that Islam enjoins fighting and subduing the non-Muslims, and this is a sublime religious duty. They urge the Muslims to take up a combative struggle – armed if necessary – to resist the evil of the “infidels” (kuffar) and to facilitate Islam’s victory over others. They cite the example of the Prophet as to how under his leadership the world of the unbelievers was subdued.

 

Repudiating this group of extremist Muslims, there is the broader Muslim community that finds an echo of their own position in what President Bush said and they would like the world to know that Islam means peace and Islam is peaceful. Period. This group is very much troubled by the hate-mongering and violent posturing of the fringe extremists among Muslims. Thus, they would like to underscore and highlight the essential dimension of Islam, which in their view is peace.

 

So, is Islam essentially intolerant and violent or is it essentially tolerant or peaceful? The fact of the matter is that in presenting Islam as essentially peaceful or violent, there is a false and an unacceptable reductionism, and trying to cast Islam in such reductionist framework inevitably leads to either misunderstanding or misrepresentation.

 

A few premises

 

At the center of this whole debate are three aspects: the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet, and the historical experience of Muslims. But first let me identify a few pertinent premises.

 

(1) Muslims hold the Qur’an as the ultimate source of divine guidance. Even the Prophet could not have contradicted the Qur’an, let alone anyone else. (2) The Qur’anic verses should not be taken in isolation from other verses or from the Prophetic experience. (3) The Qur’anic verses, commands or otherwise, have different levels of priority; some are general in scope and are to be treated or upheld as norms, while other verses might be contextual, delimited or transitional. (4) Life is an integrated whole, and Islam is a guidance for the whole life in a comprehensive or holistic manner, where a sense or goal of balance is of supreme importance. And (5) life needs to be treated as life, which from the Islamic viewpoint should be understood as based on Fitrah, the innate human nature.

 

Some historical observations Continue reading “Does the Quran or Muhammad promote violence?”

The Story of Moses and The Guide

The Story of Moses and The Guide
By: Ibn Kathir

Nabi Musa, or the Tomb of Prophet Moses (pbuh), lies 11 km south of Jericho and 20 km east of Jerusalem in the Judean wilderness.Although the last chapter in the Book of Deuteronomy tells us that Moses (pbuh) died and was buried on the other side of the Jordan River (Duet 34) and that no one knew where his Tomb was. Muslim tradition holds that Salah Eddin had a dream in which it had been revealed to him the site where the prophet Moses (pbuh) was to be respected and subsequently he built a cenotaph and on top of it a mosque.

One day, Moses delivered such an impressive sermon that all who heard it were deeply moved. Someone in the congregation asked: ” O Messenger of Allah, is there another man on earth more learned than you?” Moses replied: “No!”, believing so, as Allah had given him the power of miracles and honored him with the Torah.

However, Allah revealed to Moses that no man could know all there is to know, nor would one messenger alone be the custodian of all knowledge. There would always be another who knew what others did not. Moses asked Allah: “O Allah, where is this man? I would like to meet him and learn from him.” He also asked for a sign to this person’s identity.

Allah instructed him to take a live fish in a water-filled vessel. The point at which the fish disappears, he would find the man he sought. Moses set out on his journey, accompanied by a young man who carried the vessel with the fish. They reached a place where two rivers met and decided to rest there. Instantly, Moses fell asleep. Continue reading “The Story of Moses and The Guide”

The Birth and Lineage of the Virgin Mary

On Bulbul Dag (Nightingale Mountain) near the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey, there is the House of the Virgin where it’s believed that Mary the mother of Jesus (pbuh) passed the last years of her life.

Located in the house is the shrine of Virgin Mary.

The books of the contemporary New Testament offer very little substance with regard to the background of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The only readily available information can be seen in Luke, where Mary is said to have been a relative of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and where it is stated that Mary spent three months of her pregnancy in the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.20 In contrast, the Qur’an offers a great deal of information regarding Mary.

Behold! a woman of ‘Imran said: “Oh my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: so accept this of me: for Thou hearest and and knowest all things.” When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!” – And Allah knew best what she brought forth  – “And no wise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the evil one, the rejected.” Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty; to the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (her) chamber to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence  (comes) this to you?” She said: ” From Allah: for Allah provides sustenance to whom He pleases , without measure.”21 Continue reading “The Birth and Lineage of the Virgin Mary”

Tasawwuf & Tazkiyya – Sufism & Reformation

 

A recent comment on my blog propelled me to writing a short description on Tasawwuf and Tazkiya; its meaning, methods, purpose and reality in Islam.

Tasawwuf and Tazkiya are regarded, by some, as a completely separate section, department and form of worship in Islam. It is regarded as a path that one ‘specialises’ in. However, in reality every part, section and action in Islam contains the essence of Tasawwuf and requires its presence.

Tasawwuf and Tazkiya are usually translated in the English language as Sufism or Reformation of the Self and its master is regarded as a Sheikh or a Sufi, whilst the followers of the masters are regarded as Mureeds. Continue reading “Tasawwuf & Tazkiyya – Sufism & Reformation”

Hilaria

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh

on p608 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

 

HILAʹRIA (ἱλάρια) seems originally to have been a name which was given to any day or season of rejoicing. The hilaria were, therefore, according to Maximus Monachus (Schol. ad Dionys. Areopag. Epist. 8) either private or public. Among the former he reckons the day on which a person married, and on which a son was born; among the latter, those days of public rejoicings appointed by a new emperor. Such days were devoted to general rejoicings and public sacrifices, and no one was allowed to show any symptoms of grief or sorrow.

But the Romans also celebrated hilaria, as a feria stativa, on the 25th of March, in honour of Cybele, the mother of the gods (Macrob. Sat. I.21); and it is probably to distinguish these hilaria from those mentioned above, that Lampridius (Alexand. Sever. c37) calls them Hilaria Matris Deûm.a The day of its celebration was the first after the vernal equinox, or the first day of the year which was longer than the night. The winter with its gloom had passed away, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings (Flav. Vopisc. Aurelian. c1). The manner of its celebration during the time of the republic is unknown, except that Valerius Maximus (Val. Max. II.4 §3) mentions games in honour of the mother of the gods. Respecting its celebration at the time of the empire, we learn from Herodian (i.10, 11) that, among other things, there was a solemn procession, in which the statue of the goddess was carried, and before this statue were carried the most costly specimens of plate and works of art belonging either to wealthy Romans or to the emperors themselves. All kinds of games and amusements were allowed on this day; masquerades were the most prominent among them, and every one might, in his disguise, imitate whomsoever he liked, and even magistrates. Continue reading “Hilaria”

where’s the Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant is a treasure chest revealed by our Lord in the Qur’an and which contains the property of the Prophet Moses and the Prophet Aaron. According to Islamic scholars, the most important feature of the Ark is that its whereabouts have been unknown since 587 BC, and it is generally accepted by them that it will be found by the Mahdi, an individual who will appear in the end times. (God knows best.)The Ark of the Covenant is a subject to which attention is drawn in the hadiths (sayings of our Prophet [peace be upon him]) and in various historical sources, and is also referred to in the Qur’an, revealed by our Lord. The Torah, a divine text that was subsequently corrupted, also contains information about this chest. The Ark, regarded by Islamic scholars as heralding an age when Qur’anic moral values will prevail on earth, is described in these terms in the Qur’an:

Their Prophet said to them, ‘The sign of his kingship is that the Ark will come to you, containing serenity from your Lord and certain relics left by the families of Musa and Harun. It will be borne by angels. There is a sign for you in that if you believe. (Qur’an, 2: 248)

Continue reading “where’s the Ark of the Covenant”