By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef (Shahbaz Nadwi), New Age Islam
13 June 2013
When Islam came, the world was full of myths, superstitions, fantasies and blind dogmas. There were Greek mythologies and Indian pagan unrealistic notions in abundance. With all this pulling together, man was reduced to be a slave in the hands of fate. He was in chains everywhere. Either enslaved by Christian dogma or Jewish myths or enthralled by other fantastic tales. No progress in thought and action. Humanity was thus in the age of its infancy in terms of ideas, thoughts, and values, and so to say, the journey of science and technology was in check. With the advent of Islam, science jump-started to a new course.
Islamic concept of Tauhid (oneness of God) hit a powerful blow to superstitions, which almost came to a dead end in the very lifetime of holy prophet and in the era of great Islamic conquest of Roman as well as Persian empires. In the beginning of Umayyad period, when political turmoil was over and life became peaceful, there started a new journey of augmenting knowledge and its propagation in terms of a major translation movement from old Greek, Persian and Indian texts into Arabic, which continued for centuries and bore tremendous cultural fruits.
The second biggest favour that Islam did to humanity in this sphere was its emphasis on deductive method of research, which resulted in an observational and experimental modus operandi in all the walks of life. Before Islam there was an inductive method in vogue. This was the prelude of a new era dawning on the world. It eventually ushered in a fast impetus to new inventions and modern explorations and a search spree. Muslim scholars invented new tools and built observatories and laboratories. And thus the vast Muslim lands from East to West, India to Africa, witnessed a great change in human life, as a result of deep quest for knowledge and hunger to explore the facts of cosmic truths. Thus the life style was wholly changed, in terms of constructions, building of cities, water management, trade, warfare, shipping and innovating new ideas and techniques and investing renewed energy in all arts and crafts. The important thing is that though the political turmoil was on rise in governments, it had no effect on Ulema, scholars, writers, playwrights, researchers and artists. They remained untouched by the political hustle and bustle of those times. And this went on nearly up to 16th century. After that, it seems, the scientific thirst of Muslims was gone and their scientific temperament, spirit of research and intellectual revolution began to transfer to Europe from decadent Muslim lands.
In fact due to inner conflicts, political turmoil and, of course, on account of the horrific Mongol invasion there came a huge academic vacuum Due to scarcity of a suitable atmosphere and with growing indifference of Muslim elite towards scientific quest and artistic zeal, it was impossible for Muslim scientists to remain in such stagnant Muslim lands. So they migrated, in plenty, to either Sicily of Mormons or elsewhere, wherein they found shelter and suitable milieu to grow in and carry out their scientific experiments.
The demolition of the great time observatory of Istanbul, built by Taqiuddin in 1580, and its appearance after one century in 1675 at the mount of Green in England, was an indicator that the sun of science was going to set in Muslim lands and rise again in the west.
Why did all this happen? To me, the reason was that Muslims in that era had lost the scientific temperament. This is a very sad and long story which could be briefly summed up in the following lines: On the one hand Muslim kings, emperors and princes were lost in mundane luxuries and lavish life, their courts were havens of court intrigues and house wars to gain control on the throne. On the other, Ulema in those times were engaged in polemical debates, Fiqhi (theological, juridical) disputes and old Shia-Sunni conflicts to no end.
Muslim scientist’s migration, with other causes, was a great push to Europe’s Renaissance and what happened after that is a history known to all. In 16th century, when a small state like Poland pushed back and defeated Turks, besieging Vienna, it became clear that a tremendous power shift was about to happen between Turkey Caliphate that was to turn into a sick part of Europe very soon, and the West. Period during 17th and 18th centuries was full of strife, conflict, wars, political turmoil, class struggle, fierce fights between labourers and feudal forces and numerous restless movements etc. Yet it was marked by emergence of new ideas, advent of big machine, industrial revolution and fidgeting of new classes in society. And thus, in spite of all this, Europe emerged as a people full of energy, vitality and vigour especially in reasoning, thinking, liberal mindedness, technological innovations and scientific temperament.
Yes, it was totally wrong when it liberated itself from religion per se in its secular frenzy. All this resulted in its triumph over the East. But the Muslim world, meanwhile, was in deep slumber. And thus began western civilization's all-round invasion on the rest of the world.
Where Do Muslims Stand Today?
Israel is a small state but it alone has more scientists than the entire Muslim world. No top university is situated in any Muslim country. For around four centuries, Muslims made no proportionate or pioneering contribution in any branch of science. Neither did they come up with any tangible invention or major scientific breakthrough nor has any significant research been done in their countries. They have huge resources in terms of manpower, geopolitics, location of Muslim heartland and huge oil and gas resources but to no avail. In a nutshell, they miserably failed to prove their being useful to humanity, while the law of nature, nay, the law of Quran is: فأما الزبد فيذهب جفاء وأماماينفع الناس فيمكث في الأرض(الرعد:17) (For the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth).
Dr.Mohammd Ghitreef is the director of Foundation for Islamic Studies, New Delhi: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org