By Masood Hasan
November 07, 2016
It is important to understand that generally speaking the methodology of technology involved improvements being made incrementally i.e. a little bit at a time.
This point is generally not understood and needs an explanation.
The development of the steam engine would be a good example of the incremental development that took place from time to time.
It was in the year 1680 that Huygens used the concept of making use of a vacuum to move a piston.
In 1690 Pepin converted that thinking into a low lift water pump.
Later, Savery in 1698, added an internal jet which improved the performance of the Papin engine.
In 1720 Newcomen, through better boring of cylinders, was able to improve upon what Savery had done.
Thereafter instrument makers got involved and in 1767 Smeaton brought about further improvement increasing the horse power from four to twelve.
In 1775 Watt, also an instrument maker added a condenser-governor increasing the horse power to thirty-six.
Then over a period of time from 1800 to 1830 power of the steam engine was increased up to 100 horse power through increasing the number of cylinders and the stroke.
By this time technology moved science to investigate the properties of steam so as to further increase the power of the steam engine which appeared to have got up to the maximum.
The reader will know that after the vision given by Huygens it took quite a long time to bring about increasing both the efficiency and capacity.
Other examples could be given e.g. the computer.
Allama Iqbal was able to fathom the depth of thinking that went into technological improvements which are referred to in Javid Nama in emphasising: that the power of the West comes through science and more importantly in its application, i.e. technology, to meet the wants of man.
He says this competence does not come by merely wearing European clothes; that it comes from use of one’s brains and that is all that one requires is an intangible called a nimble intellect or innovative use of the brains.
This is quite in conformity of a firm Hadith.
When the Holy Prophet (pbuh) appointed Muad bin Jabbal governor of Yemen he asked him how he would get about discharging his responsibilities.
Muad replied he would seek guidance from the Quran.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) responded asking him what he would do if the guidance required was not available; Muad said I will refer to your Sunna, whereupon the Holy Prophet (pbuh) asked him if he yet did not find the answer.
Muad said, I will then use my brain to figure things out.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) praised him for his phased approach and raised his hands in supplication to Allah to bless Muad.
We therefore need to use logic and reasoning to move forward.
Look at the achievements of the philosophers, of old, rather polymaths, that followed later e.g Al-kindi, Al Razi (Rhazes), ibn Sina (Avicenna), Al Biruni, Al-Haytham (Hazen) and many others and they were not necessarily Muslims.
They all used Arabic to express themselves.
At each stage of development economic factors were at play.
It led to the industrial revolution which brought in its trail several other problems.
It was not only multidisciplinary in character but also affected existing cultural norms.
It follows that technology, on application based on the findings of science, raises the problems of change in societies.
How it has worked out in capitalism, socialism and communism needs our attention.
Charles Dickens paints the developments in the Victorian age.
Revolutions, tell us of its other effects.
But the basic character is the need for beneficial adaptation to change within a given culture.
It is of interest to note that amongst the first writings of Allama Iqbal (in English) were his views on Islam and economics.
He could visualise the ways in which societies had adapted in the West.
That they were committing suicide with a dagger of their own making.
Colonialism is a result of economic race to outdo the others and to use technology for subjugation and to benefit from the cheapness of raw materials through exploitive control both international and also national.
The next article in this connection to understand the developmental process better will focus on the development of knowledge and how it got about change in society.
Some adapted better some adapted not so well.
To become economically self-sufficient should be our first goal.
Masood Hasan is an engineer and a regular contributor.