By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
17 October 2019
Dr. Abdus Salam, Nobel Laureate
In the seventeenth century a great astronomer Galileo Galilee was convicted of grave crime of Heresy; that of following controversial heliocentric theory enunciated by Copernicus, about two centuries before. Then the theory was considered contrary to the true sense and authority of “Holy scripture, the Bible", both by Catholic and later by Protestant churches. Galileo was punished by being placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. But he courageously maintained that:
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
To their credit the Christian churches centuries later accepted the truth and the scholars' endeavours and inquiries in the workings of the universe by science and mathematics. So the monopoly of the priestly religion's “knowledge” was broken.
True knowledge had once again became acceptable to acquire understanding of the Creator's working of the universe.
Once again because, previous to that In the eighth century a similar scripture Quran had announced that intellectual inquiry and questioning of prevailing wisdom must be adopted by mankind as its essential activity with open mind :
...And they who when reminded of the signs of their Lord do not fall down there at as deaf and blind 25-73, giving mankind the freedom to indulge in pursuit of knowledge:
...Lo! herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect 30-21
But a caveat is put on that, the acquired knowledge must not lead to arrogance. On the contrary humility must be adopted in Creator's service;
...for sure, in reverential humility (Khashu) are among God's servants, the knowledgeable people (u'lamau/scholars),35-28.
Inquiring, reflecting, contemplating and questioning the working of the Universe is highly recommended as the essential element to gain understanding of the workings of the universe and thus get closeness to its Creator. It says, Knowledgeable person are those who in their humbleness are the true servants of the Lord the Creator, for they are in awe the more they gain knowledge and realise the infinity that is the Creator's wisdom and power:
And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the seas, with seven more seas to help it, (were ink), the words of God could not be exhausted. Lo! God is Mighty, Wise 31-27.
A simple way perhaps to explain to lay persons what is 'infinity'.
It can be argued though - how can ordinary persons, let alone priests who spend their life confined to church precincts, fathom infinity from the above verse when they never seen a dense forest locally, let alone imagine the vastness of say the Amazon jungle, fifteen centuries ago when the Scripture Quran was compiled? And then to appreciate the amount of wood that would have come out from all the jungles to make writing pens?
The Book advises;
22-46: Do they not travel through the land so that their (hearts and minds) may thus acquire wisdom?
Contemplating the working of the universe in many of its aspects is referred in the Book numerous times. Examples abound, few are given here:
35-27: Do you not see that God sent down water from the sky with which We brought forth fruits of diverse hues? In the mountains there are white and red tracts, of diverse hues, and pitch black as well.
35-28: and human beings too, and beasts, and cattle, diverse are their hues. From among His servants, it is only those who have knowledge are in awe of God. Verily God is Most Mighty, Most Forgiving.
2-164: Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with cargo that benefits people, and what God has sent down from the heavens as rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.
The above just about covers most branches of science studies – the “ologies”.
This exultation in the scripture for acquiring knowledge and use reasoning for its acquisition; what in today's language called scientific studies, was taken to heart by early Muslim scholars, who quenched their thirst for true knowledge even travelling far and wide to acquire it by studying where ever it was available. Iqbal the poet defined that yearning for knowledge as:
I'lm Kee Intiha Hai Beytabi; Iss Marz Kee Magar Dawa Hun' Main'.
The end result of knowledge is restlessness; but I (knowledge) am also its cure.
The early Muslims obeyed in practice the scripture's advice to ask God:
20-114… 'My Lord make increase in my knowledge’. Not by bruising their forehead on the prayer rugs wishing that knowledge would drop in their lap from the heaven, but 'Riding on the shoulders of giants' past and present, of knowledge from many nations. These earlier Muslim scholars had made advance contributions in many disciplines of sciences.
Yet today despite the fact that Quran stipulate computation (10-5), there are State - established Hilal Committees composed of Religious brigades, paid fat salaries from State coffers, to “sight the new moon” albeit with the help of telescope invented and manufactured by others, to establish religious dates, that often turned out wrong! All this in the name of Sunnah – practice of the Messenger Muhammad, who could never have had the benefit of telescope.
When the above is considered in present day context, one is astounded to note how narrowly and comically the acquiring of knowledge (i'lm) and knowledgeable people (u'lamau) is taken to mean by Muslims and how arrogantly these scholars flout the scripture.
These u'lama then don garbs, crowns and gowns as learned masters to advertise their position in the hierarchy of the churches- though “Innamaa Yakhshallahu Min Ibaadihil Ulamaau” 35-28 never passed their memorised vocabulary! Humility is not a part of professional priesthood.
Their followers are then so dazed by the dazzle that some learned people amongst them too are blinded so as not to be able to differentiate between religious pronouncements and true knowledge.
But then Religions have the effect of shrouding the reasoning capacity of the followers.
How impossible it is then to accept that the Book Muslims take as their article of Faith should be so benightedly ignored in its most essential of commands, of acquiring knowledge of all kinds and questioning priestly pronouncements, so as to appreciate the infinite wisdom of the Creator of the universe.
However such blindness was not the case with the early Muslim scholars.
While expressing disappointment at the present situation and yet glorifying past achievements of Muslims scholars, one is very conscious of the fact that this dilemma has been lamented upon by many, and prominent amongst them is the poet Iqbal. But he has chided all for glorifying the past and failing to take action to correct the situation:
Thhey Toe Aabaa Woh Tumharey Hee, Magar Tum Kiya Ho?- for sure they were your forefathers, but what are you really?
Haat Par Haat Dharey Muntazir-E-Fardaa Hoe!- with clasped hands you are just waiting for the next day.
Lo! Once again Nobel Prizes for Sciences have been awarded for this year – although by one of the biggest armament and killing industries of the world. May be in next generation a Muslim might be awarded one, or at least share in one, as did Dr Abdus Salam, about a generation ago. However here too the churches intervened, just as did other churches previously; and a practicing Muslim scientist to the core was declared a non-Muslim; usurping what the scripture itself says is the Creator's sole right and prerogative:
Innamaa Yakhshallahu Min Ibaadihi U'lamau!
For now Muslims are fully occupied in demolishing each other’s beautiful cities and countries, and annihilating their present and next generations in the process purely for their political strategies; ironically with arms purchased by the billions from the same killing industries in the name of their various religions; all of them called Islam: in proud humility!
A regular contributor to NewAgeIslam.com, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer
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