Knowledge-The Foundation to the Rise of Muslims
There is no denying the fact that Islam attaches great importance to knowledge and education. The first revealed verse of the glorious Quran was ‘Iqra’ and this is enough evidence to state the fact that education and learning are the starting points of human activity as per the Islamic wisdom. Several Prophetic traditions highlight the significance of acquiring knowledge and developing a scientific temperament.
The manifestation of the importance that Islam attaches to knowledge was visible when the prisoners of war who fell to the Muslims during the battle of Badr were offered freedom in lieu of their teaching and passing on the different trades to the children of Medina.
Moreover, the Islamic approach as it emanates from the glorious Quran is neither based on mythology nor superstition; instead it is entirely based on a realistic approach through learning and scientific engagement. The Creator has time and again encouraged the people to think and ponder, and thereby reveal the secrets of nature and the bounties of the Lord.
Look at the methodology evolved and adopted for the completion of the glorious Quran, it is purely a knowledge based scientific approach.
During the early period, the Muslims displayed a remarkable capacity of assimilating the scientific knowledge of the ancient civilizations they had overrun. The Abbasid Caliphs opened wide the gates of learning from all quarters. This was entirely in pursuance of the zeal that Caliph Al-Mamu’n set up a House of Wisdom (Bait-ul-Hikmat) at Bagdad for translating the knowledge generated by multiple civilizations including those of Greek, Byzantine, Egyptian, Iranian and Indian into Arabic. And no wonder within a short span of time almost all the important scientific works of the various countries became available in Arabic.
This endeavor yielded and Arabs became the contributors to the various sciences and the other branches of knowledge. Arab world took a lead in the multitude of branches of knowledge like those of geometry, astronomy, optics, geography, chemistry, medicine, algebra, zoology, and others.
The Muslim contribution can hardly be erased from the pages of history. The names of Al-Khwarizm i– a mathematician par excellence, Jabir ibn Hayan – the father of chemistry, Abu Rayhan al-Beruni – a great mathematician, astronomer and historian, anthropologist and father of Indology, Ibn-al-Nafis – a great sociologist and the first to describe the pulmonary circulation, Ibn Khaldun – hailed as the forerunner of modern social sciences, Al-Masudi – the ‘Herodotus of Arabs and pioneer of historical geography, Al- Kindi – pioneer of environmental science, Muhamad-Al-Idrisi- a cartographer, Ahmed-ibn Sahl-al Balkhi – pioneer of mental health, Ali-ibn Abbas al-Majusi – pioneer of neuro-anatomy and neurobiology, Avicena – pioneer of neuropsychiatry, Ibn-Zuhr– pioneer of neurology, Ibn-al-Haytham– a great physicist, considered as the father of optics, and Al-Zahrawi– the greatest medieval surgeon, are a few among the stars that illuminated the world and lad foundations of various sciences.
It needs to be emphasized that the Muslim rulers were themselves zealous learners and they extended patronage to the men of divergent intellectual tastes. Further, there was a remarkable degree of intellectual and personal freedom enjoyed by scholars and scientists which doesn’t find any parallels in the then Europe, mainly due to the rigidity of church.
Afterwards, the pendulum shifted away from the Muslims and the rich legacy in knowledge that was consolidated over the centuries depleted gradually. The era also represents the beginning of the political downfall of the Islamic world.
The irony is that the Europe was liberated from the darkness of middle ages after they came in contact with the Muslim world during and after the crusades. The European contacts with the Muslim world stimulated the intellectual, scientific, social and geographical inquisitiveness of the west. When the crusaders came back, their intellectual horizons had broadened very much.
No wonder that we witness stupendous progress achieved by the West and this continued till Europe virtually acquired the leadership of world in all the fields of life. The Europe was now in no mood to allow it to relapse back in the age of ignorance and it ensured that no other country moved ahead of it in the field of knowledge, a pre-requisite to acquire power.
It was perhaps this loss of glorious heritage that the great Muslim thinkers like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal or for that matter Dr Ali Shariati lamented at. These and other like-minded thinkers, philosophers and scholars have time and again exhorted upon the Muslim community to shun their differences and switch back to the knowledge, if they wish a dignified life and a lead role in the contemporary era.
Dr. Ali Shariati makes a brain storming comment in a write-up, when he says that the West is working to ensure its hegemony and it keeps the top Muslim brains busy in expounding the stereotyped extreme religious doctrines, poetry and others non-productive pursuits. He says that the Blacks have been assigned the jazz and dance and the West continues to dominate.
We are left with no option but to receive the inspiration from our glorious past and contribute our bit in different capacities, if we really want to liberate ourselves from the morass of ignorance, backwardness or for that matter slavery.
The poet of east, Dr Allama Iqbal’s verse simplifies the whole statement;
Sabaq phir pad sadaqat ka, shujaat ka, adalat ka
liya jayega tujse imtehan duniya ke imamat ka
I would conclude by arguing that the rise of Muslims to the leadership role in an urgent need for a variety of reasons and that cannot be achieved without understanding the fact that we rose to the heights through knowledge and we will reach to heights through the same knowledge.
*The author is an Assistant professor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of Oracle Opinions.