Islam and Safeguarding Human Life in the Modern Context

Islam and Safeguarding Human Life in the Modern Context

By Shahul Hameed

Islam and Safeguarding Human Life in the Modern ContextAccording to Islamic teachings, all living things are partners to humans in life and each species deserves respect. Environmentalists never tire of stressing the importance of water as the “source” of life on earth. In fact, the ever-glorious Qur’an is the only divine book that lays so much stress on how life is so closely linked to water:

And have not the ones who disbelieved seen that the heavens and the earth were an integrated (mass), then We [Allah] unseamed them, and of water We have made every living thing? Would they then not believe? (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:30)

Almighty Allah also says:

And Allah sends down from the skies water; so He gives life therewith to the earth after its death. Surely in that is indeed a sign for a people who listen. (An-Nahl 16:65)

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has taught that any person who plants a crop that feeds another person, animal, or bird, will receive his or her due reward in Paradise, and that denying water to living beings or destroying trees or plants is viewed in Islam as a grievous sin.

Modern scientific methodology and technology have their roots in the experimental science propagated by the previous generations of Muslims. What came to be known as Islamic science never was a greedy venture to conquer the forces of nature, but an ethical pursuit of knowledge with a view to decipher the signs of Almighty Allah in nature as well as in the whole universe.

While Muslims are proud of their contributions to science and technology as a means of improving the quality of human life, they are happy that they have little to do with the development of such technologies as linked to the destruction of nature, the environment, and of living beings through the wasteful exploitation of God-given resources and through the manufacture and use of weapons of global destruction.

In his article “Islam and the Environment,” Arafat El-Ashi, director of the Muslim World League in Canada, observed that “Human life is sacred in the sight of Islam; hence, no one is permitted to take the life of another person except as life-for-life; and in Islam suicide is a crime” (Smith).

Islam gives an integrated view of life and reality, and it is unique in that it holds every human activity, whether this-worldly or the other-worldly, under the purview of religion. That is because Islam views life as an organic whole; whose divergent spheres are subject to the same guiding principles.

The Islamic Shari`ah is a body of laws meant to govern the whole of human life. The scholars of Islam have underscored five major objectives of the Shari`ah based on the noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad — peace and blessings be upon him (Al-Timimi). These objectives are the protection and promotion of the following:

1. Deen — Religion

2. Nafs — Life

3. Nasl — Progeny or family

4. `Aql — Intellect or mind

5. Maal — Property or wealth (Siddiqi)

Thus, having irresponsible sexual relations, that often lead to unwanted pregnancy and consequent infanticide, is most heinous from the viewpoint of Islam.

One may wonder why the preservation of life is second to the protection of religion. The answer is that everything, including the very idea of protecting life, comes from religion; for Muslims, the very purpose of human life on earth is to worship Almighty Allah alone (Al-Timimi).

Our concern here is the protection of life, which is the second objective of the Shari`ah. The sanctity of human life is declared repeatedly and most emphatically in the ever-glorious Qur’an. An example is the Qur’anic verse that reads:

If any one slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)

To kill just one innocent human is like killing the whole of humanity, and to save just one human amounts to saving the whole of humanity! Can we possibly find a better way of emphasizing the sanctity of human life?!

Among the pagan Arabs at old times, there existed the horrible practice of burying alive the newborn girls. Today, however, this practice further developed to kill the babies even before they are born! By this, modern people have made the crime of infanticide a small matter of medical expediency. This practice is strongly condemned in a number of Qur’anic verses. An example occurs in one of the earliest chapters revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in which reference is made to the Day of Judgment and the signs preceding it; two of these verses read:

When the female infant buried alive will be asked, for what sin she was slain. (At-Takwir 81:8-9)

Indeed, by prescribing death penalty for the murderer, the Shari`ah aims at the protection of life. Yet, no one has the right to take the life of another except under due legal process. Moreover, it is a unique feature of the Shari`ah that it makes a provision for the family of the murdered so as to forgive the murderer. They can do so freely or after receiving some token financial compensation.

The third objective of the Shari`ah is the protection of the progeny or family. It is well known that Islam strictly prohibits the free mingling between opposite sexes. While marriage is permitted and encouraged by the Shari`ah, promiscuity is forbidden in no uncertain terms. Islam views the sexual impulse of the humans as something natural and beautiful, not as something dirty. That is why Islam has regulated such impulses and nurtured and satisfied them through marriage.

Islam seeks to strengthen the family because outside it, there is no real protection for children, especially in their early stage of growth when the attention and care given to them by their parents are of crucial significance. So, any action that undermines the family is considered a serious crime in Islam; punishments are prescribed proportionate to the seriousness of the criminal act.

Thus, having irresponsible sexual relations, that often lead to unwanted pregnancy and consequent infanticide, is most heinous from the viewpoint of Islam, and due punishments are prescribed for such serious violations of Allah’s commands.

But in “modern” societies, especially in the West, permissiveness, which means no accountability to anyone, is the norm. This is most abhorrent to Islam, however.

In short, safeguarding the institution of the family is essential for the security and stability of any society. Crimes and increasing mental disorders leading to suicides seen in Western societies are often traceable to the dissolution of family. Where families have broken down, children may well develop criminal tendencies ultimately giving rise to social disruption. Therefore, the family is seen as greatly important in maintaining peaceful life at the individual, social, and international levels.

 

References:

  • Murad, Khurram. “Shari`ah: The Way of Justice.” Young Muslims. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  • Siddiqi, Muzammil H. “Ethics of Shari`ah and Our Responsibility.“IslamOnline.net.28 July 2005. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  • Smith, Gar. “Islam and the Environment.” Islam Awareness. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  • Al-Timimi, Ali. “Islam: The Cure for Societal Ills.” Islaam.com.18-20 Oct. 1993. Accessed 29 June 2008.

 

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Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.

Professor Shahul Hameed is a consultant to IslamOnline.net. He was previously the Head of the Department of English, Farook College, Calicut University, and the president of the Kerala Islamic Mission in Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.

 

 

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Islam and Civilized Societies

By Muhammad Al-Bahi

Islam and Civilized SocietiesIt is frequently claimed that Islam is valid only for primitive people, as it elevates them to a better standard, and that is why it appealed to tribal communities, while in civilized societies it is no longer in use.

But, what is meant by civilized societies? Does this refer to modern societies which are based on materialistic industrial culture?

Actually, the great advance in natural and mathematical sciences helps man upgrade his living standard, but it does not elevate his soul. Science has nothing to do with morals; it is mainly concerned with materialistic and mechanic aspects. Natural and mathematical sciences play a great role in disclosing secrets of the universe, but they are far away from human moral values. Rather, some people may be misled to follow materialistic laws, taking spiritual values slightly.

There is no correlation between materialistic civilization and elevated human values, i.e. between natural sciences and morality. To reach a high standard of morality, man should be rightly guided, and to perceive the existence of the Supreme Lord, Almighty Allah, man should be religiously guided.

Materialistic progress does not necessarily entail moral reform; a society may witness great advance in natural sciences, even though it has moral degeneration. So, if egoism and individualism prevails, ties of curtsy will weaken and people will lose their faith in Allah and, thus, the society will lose its humanitarian aspects. That is to say, if there’s a friction between materialistic and industrial culture man will tend to violate the rights of others, then this will mislead him to lose his dignity as a human being.

Thus, this shows that using modern sciences for destructive purposes makes man decline to a low standard of humanity.

Man is not a machine, for man has a free will, while a machine has no power of choice; it has to be operated, and it is man who operates the machine not the other way round. Man can manage his affairs and operate mechanical aspects of life wisely once he realizes morality, distinguishes between right and wrong, realized the value of curtsy and cooperation and sense the existence of the Allah overall.

Piety includes fearing Allah, righteousness, tolerance, patience and persistence on the right path, unlike the natural and mathematical sciences. They have no value unless they are accompanied by piety.

The message of Islam is to guide man to a better standard of humanity, no matter where man is, in a rural or urban industrial society. Almighty Allah describes Islam as a message that aims at sanctifying man’s soul and elevating him over the rank of brute animals. It is concerned mainly with the moral side of life, so as to guide deviant people to the right path. Thus, Islam is a universal message; it is revealed for people of all races everywhere and at all times. Almighty Allah says:

He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow, and to teach them the Scripture and Wisdom, though heretofore they were indeed in error manifest. Along with others of them who have not yet joined them. He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Al-Jumu`ah 62 : 2-3)

 

Deficiency of Educational Systems

It may be argued that man may do without Islam, as long as there is education that also elevates man’s manners and corrects his beliefs.

Nevertheless, there is no system of education that elevates man’s manners and beliefs in a way that makes him good for himself, his society and his Lord. If there is such educational system, then it is Islam in the name of education.

In fact, education guides man’s behavior and instill in him many values, but they disregard the religious side. Thus, education is full of defects and, thus, turn out as insufficient for man’s salvation.

Islam, by and large, is not only a guiding message; rather, it is concerned with preserving man’s belief in Allah and monotheism, and it encourages piety. So doing, it awakens man’s conscience and drives him automatically to realize moral values of life and follow the right path. By applying such values all man’s deeds will be good.

Put it short, Islam’s first target is man’s heart, to purify it and fill it with true faith; then his mind, to instill in it the moral values of life. This is something education falls short of doing, as it focuses on enlightening man’s mind, paying no heed to the spiritual and religious aspects.

 

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Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.

Dr. Muhammad Al-Bahi was born in Osmaniyah village, Giza, Egypt, in 1905. He studied in Al-Azhar University. He joined the Department of Rhetoric and Literature. He studied philosophy in Germany and then obtained his doctorate in philosophy and Islamic studies from Hamburg University.

 

 

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What Is Islam’s View about Education, Science and Technology?

What Is Islam’s View about Education, Science and Technology?

By Safuan Ramlan

The framework of Islamic thought represents a comprehensive view of life and the universe. A Muslim is therefore required to acquire both religious and worldly knowledge. In fact, Islam advocated knowledge at a time when the whole world was engulfed in ignorance. In a matter of years the early generation of Muslims became a learned and refined people, for Islam had awakened in them the faculty of intellect. Those early Muslims understood from the teachings of their religion that useful knowledge is necessary for the benefit of the self and of humanity. Hence, they pursued it to such a degree that they surpassed other nations in development and productivity and carried the torch of civilization for many centuries.

Muslim history abounds with examples of scientific and cultural ingenuity. Muslims inherited the knowledge of the nations that came before them, developed it and placed it in the context of a precise moral framework. Muslim scholarship made a vital contribution to the enrichment and advancement of human civilization.

While Europe was still in the dark ages, religious Muslims were making great advances in the fields of medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, literature, and history documentation to mention but a few.  Many important new procedures were transmitted to medieval Europe from Muslim regions, such as Arabic numerals with the principle of the zero vital to the advancement of mathematics and the use of algebra.  Sophisticated instruments, including the astrolabe and the quadrant, as well as good navigational maps, were first developed by Muslims. Only after people lost sight of their religious beliefs and obligations did the scientific achievements of the Muslim world cease and fall into obscurity.

Similarly, Islam does not now oppose any modern inventions that are beneficial to mankind. It is sufficient that they be used in the name of God and for His cause. In reality, machines, instruments and devices have no religion or homeland. They can be used for either good or bad objectives, and the way they are used can affect much of the earth’s population. Even something so simple as a glass can be filled either with a nourishing drink or with a poison. Television can provide education or immorality. It is up to the user to decide, and a Muslim is commanded to make good use of all the means at his disposal while being prohibited from causing harm to himself or others. Failure to use the proper means toward benefit is, in effect, a deprecation of Islamic teachings.

A truly Islamic government is required to the best of its ability to provide all means that promote adequate education for its citizens. Education is a right for all individuals and the required moral duty of every capable Muslim. All able, intelligent and skilled individuals in an Islamic society are required to educate themselves not only in the basics of their religion but in necessary worldly affairs. Further, it is obligatory upon qualified people to study every beneficial field of knowledge. For example, since every society needs doctors, it becomes obligatory for some people to go into the field of medicine to fulfill the needs of society.

Advancements in science and technology are among the ways and means to achieve development of the Muslim world. Islam calls upon Muslims to pursue knowledge in the broadest sense of the word. Prophet Muhammad said, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” [Narrated by Ibn Majah] He also said, “For one who treads a path to knowledge, Allah will make easy the path to Paradise.” [Narrated by Muslim] And the Qur’an contains numerous references to knowledge and its importance, such as:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day are signs for those of understanding. (Al `Imran 3: 190)

Say, ‘Are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ (Al-Zumar 39: 9)

Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge by degrees. (Al-Mujadilah 58: 11)

Qur’anic verses encourage study and contemplation of the universe that surrounds us and is particularly concerned with those sciences that give human beings the ability to benefit from the world around them. While encouraging investigation, the Qur’an contains references to a variety of subjects which have been shown to be scientifically accurate.   This is the fulfillment of God’s statement over 14 centuries ago:

We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. (Fussilat 41: 53)

Thus, when a Muslim has a sincere and wholesome intention to obtain knowledge, it will also have a positive effect on his faith. For knowledge reinforces textual evidence for the existence of the Almighty Creator and assists in appreciation of the many scientific allusions found in the Qur’an.

There has never been an established scientific fact that contradicted the teachings of Islam. Whatever modern science discovers only increases the Muslim’s knowledge of God’s magnificent creation. Thus, Islam actively encourages scientific endeavors and the study of God’s signs in nature. It also welcomes beneficial technological advances and allows people to enjoy the fruits of human ingenuity.

To a Muslim, conflict between science and religion is an impossibility, for religion comes from God and so does His system of creation and development. The modern, purely materialistic approach to scientific and technological advancement has indeed granted man a measure of physical comfort, but not mental or spiritual comfort. Islam advocates the incorporation of knowledge within a just and balanced value system where anything beneficial for one’s spiritual and worldly improvement is encouraged and advocated.

 

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Safuan Ramlan is a member of the Executive Team of the Malaysian Society for Engineering and Technology, Malaysia.

Taken with slight editorial modifications from gainpeace.com.

 

 

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Muslim Printing Before Gutenberg

Muslim Printing Before Gutenberg

By FSTC Ltd.

The 15th-century German craftsman Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz is often credited with inventing the art and craft of printing. There is no doubt that this brought about a tremendous revolution in human communication and accumulation of knowledge, but was it really “invented” in 15th-century Europe? Gutenberg does seem to have been the first to devise a printing press, but printing itself, that is, making multiple copies of a text by transferring it from one raised surface to other portable surfaces (especially paper) is much older. The Chinese were doing it as early as the 4th century, and the oldest dated printed text known to us is from 868: the Diamond Sutra, a Chinese translation of a Buddhist text now preserved in the British Library.

What is much less well known is that, little more than 100 years later, Arab Muslims were also printing texts, including passages from the Qur’an. They had already embraced the Chinese craft of paper making, developed it and adopted it widely in the Muslim lands. This led to a major growth in the production of manuscript texts. But there was one kind of text which lent itself particularly to mass distribution: this was the private devotional collection of prayers, incantations, Qur’anic extracts and the “beautiful names” of God, for which there was a huge demand among Muslims, rich and poor, educated and uneducated.

So in Fatimid Egypt, the technique was adopted of printing these texts on paper strips, and supplying them in multiple copies to meet the mass demand. Several have been found by archaeologists in the course of excavations at Fustat (old Cairo), and the archaeological context has made it possible to date them to the 10th century. Other examples have come from various sites in Egypt, where the dry climate has helped to preserve them. The style of Arabic script used varies between late Kufic and different cursive naskh and other styles used in the Mamluk period (13th-16th centuries).

One good late example is printed on Italian watermarked paper of the 15th century. So Muslim printing continued for about 500 years. We do not know whether it may have influenced the eventual adoption of printing in Europe: there is no evidence, but the possibility cannot be ruled out, especially as the earliest European examples were block-prints. It has even been suggested that the Italian word tarocchi, meaning tarot cards (which were among the earliest block-printed artifacts in Europe), may have derived from the Arabic tarsh. But this is a highly speculative theory, and more evidence will be needed before it can be accepted. Some of these printed documents display quite sophisticated designs involving calligraphic headpieces, transverse lettering, geometric panels, roundels, and the use of color.

There is also a great variety of script styles. Nearly 60 examples of these Arabic printed pieces survive in European and American libraries and museums, and an unknown number in Egypt itself. One example, in private hands, may have been produced in Afghanistan, or Iran, where it is known from historical sources that paper money was also printed in the Mongol period. There are very few historical or literary references, however, to the production of printed texts. It has been suggested that this non-classical Arabic term signified tin plates with engraved or repoussé lettering, from which printed impressions were made. But it is also possible that Chinese-style wood-blocks were used. The exact techniques are still in doubt. What is not in doubt is that Muslims were practicing the craft of printing for some five centuries before Gutenberg.

 

References

– Bloom, Jonathan M., Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001; see especially pp. 218-219. – Bulliet, Richard W., “Medieval Arabic tarsh: a forgotten chapter in the history of Arabic printing”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 107 (1987), pp. 427-438.

– Carter, Thomas F., The Invention of Printing in China and Its Spread Westward. Revised by L. Carrington Goodrich. New York: Ronald Press, 1955; see especially chapter 18.

– Depaulis, Thierry, “Documents Imprimés de l’Egypte Fatimide: Un Chapitre Méconnu de l’histoire de l’imprimerie“, Bulletin de la Société Archéologique, Historique et Artistique le Vieux Papier 35 / 349 (1998), pp. 133-136.

– Fenton, Paul B., “Une Xylographie Arabe Médiévale à la Bibliothéque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg“, Arabica 50 i (2003), pp. 114-117.

– Jahn, Karl, “Paper Currency in Iran: A Contribution to the Cultural and Economic History of Iran in the Mongol Period“, Journal of Asian History 4 (1970), pp. 101-135.

– Krek, Miroslav, “Arabic Block Printing as the Precursor of Printing in Europe: Preliminary Report“, American Research Center in Egypt Newsletter, 129 (1985), pp. 12-16. – Levi Della Vida, Giorgio, “An Arabic block print“, Scientific Monthly 59 (1944), pp. 473-474.

– Lunde, Paul, “A missing link“, Aramco World Magazine 32 ii (1981), pp.26-27 (on block printed Arabic texts.)

– Schaefer, Karl, “Arabic Printing Before Gutenberg – Block-printed Arabic Amulets“, Middle Eastern languages and the print revolution: a cross-cultural encounter. A catalogue and companion to the exhibition. Ed. Eva Hanebutt-Benz – Dagmar Glass – Geoffrey Roper in collaboration with Theo Smets / Gutenberg Museum Mainz, Internationale Gutenberg-Gesellschaft. Westhofen: WVA-Verlag Skulima, 2002, pp.123-128.

– Schaefer, Karl, “Eleven Medieval Arabic Block Prints in the Cambridge University Library“, Arabica 48 ii (2001), pp.210-239. – Schaefer, Karl, “The Scheide tarsh.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 56 iii (1995), pp.400-430.

– Schaefer, Karl, “Enigmatic Charms: Medieval Arabic Block Printed Amulets in American and European Libraries and Museums.” Leiden: Brill, 2006 (Handbook of Oriental Studies, I/82).

 

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Courtesy www.muslimheritage.com with slight editorial modifications.

FSTC stands for the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization. The Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC) is a British not-for-profit, non-political, and non-religious organisation founded in 1999 by a group of philanthropic historians, scientists, engineers and social scientists. It is dedicated to researching and popularising the history of pre-Renaissance civilisations, especially the Muslim civilisation, that have had an impact upon the scientific, technological and cultural heritage of our modern world.

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Muslims’ Contribution in Algebra

Muslims’ Contribution in Algebra

Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khowarizmi, the father of algebra, was a mathematician and astronomer. He was summoned to Baghdad by Al-Mamun and appointed court astronomer. From the title of his work, Hisab Al-Jabr wal Mugabalah (Book of Calculations, Restoration and Reduction), Algebra (Al-Jabr) derived its name.

His book On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals, written about 825, was principally responsible for the diffusion of the Indian system of numeration (Arabic numerals) in the Islamic lands and the West.

Al-Khowarizmi left his name to the history of mathematics in the form of Algorism (the old name for arithmetic).

Al-Khowarizmi emphasized that he wrote his algebra book to serve the practical needs of the people concerning matters of inheritance, legacies, partition, lawsuits and commerce.

In the twelfth century Gerard of Cremona and Roberts of Chester translated the algebra of Al-Khowarizmi into Latin. Mathematicians used it all over the world until the sixteenth century.

Traditional systems had used different letters of the alphabet to represent numbers or cumbersome Roman numerals, and the new system was far superior, for it allowed people to multiply and divide easily and check their work. The merchant Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa, who had learned about Arabic numerals in Tunis, wrote a treatise rejecting the abacus in favor of the Arab method of reckoning, and as a result, the system of Hindu-Arabic numeration caught on quickly in Central Italy. By the fourteenth century, Italian merchants and bankers had abandoned the abacus and were doing their calculations using pen and paper, in much the same way we do today.

In addition to his treatise on numerals, al-Khwarizmi also wrote a revolutionary book on resolving quadratic equations. These were given either as geometric demonstrations or as numerical proofs in an entirely new mode of expression. The book was soon translated into Latin, and the word in its title, al-Jabr, or transposition, gave the entire process its name in European languages, algebra, understood today as the generalization of arithmetic in which symbols, usually letters of the alphabet such as A, B, and C, represent numbers. Al-Khwarizmi had used the Arabic word for “thing” (shay’) to refer to the quantity sought, the unknown. When al-Khwarizmi’s work was translated in Spain, the Arabic word shay’ was transcribed as xay, since the letter x was pronounced as sh in Spain. In time this word was abbreviated as x, the universal algebraic symbol for the unknown.

Robert of Chester’s translation of al-Khwarzmi’s treatise on algebra opens with the words dixit Algorithmi, “Algorithmi says.” In time, the mathematician’s epithet of his Central Asian origin, al-Khwarizmi, came in the West to denote first the new process of reckoning with Hindu-Arabic numerals, algorithmus, and then the entire step-by-step process of solving mathematical problems, algorithm.

The Muslims of the 9th Century, including Abu Al-Wafaa’ turned Algebra into science. They created the zero and the decimal point.

Abu Al-Wafaa’ was the first person to demonstrate the sine theorem for spherical triangle: sin (a+b) = sin a cos b – cos a sin b. The word ‘sine’ is the exact translation of the Arabic word Jayb.

 

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Taken with slight editorial modifications from islamic-study.org, with the same title which reads, Muslims’ Contribution in Algebra.  

 

 

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The Story of the Qur’an

The Story of the Qur’an

By Shahul Hameed

Qur'an 2-1The human mind “can operate only on the basis of perceptions previously experienced by that very mind, either in their entirety, or in some of their constituent elements.” (See Muhammad Asad’s Message of the Qur’an) In other words, we cannot form a clear idea of something that happens entirely outside the realm of our past experiences; and therefore, it is natural that we find it difficult to comprehend the full meaning and relevance of mystical experiences like revelation.

The Qur’an makes a clear distinction between the perceptible world of experience and the unseen world of transcendental reality. Revelation is a means for God’s specially chosen messengers to receive divine messages; we may call it an exclusive channel of communication accessible to the prophets. For this reason, by way of an objective investigation, we can only study the credibility of the person who claims to have received a revelation, learn the circumstances, and observe the results.

The Qur’an says what means,

It is not fitting for a man that God should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by sending of a messenger to reveal with God’s permission what God wills: for He is Most High, Most Wise. (Ash-Shura 42:51)

This means that God does not hold a face-to-face talk with any human. The divine message comes to the prophets through the angel Gabriel. There are other exceptional cases, such as the Prophet Abraham getting God’s message in a dream or Moses hearing God speaking to him from behind a burning bush. But again, these are exceptional cases.

How did the Prophet Muhammad receive revelation? According to his wife `A’ishah, the Prophet used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hiraa’ outside Makkah, where he used to worship God continuously for many days.

One day, an angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet, who was unlettered, replied, “I do not know how to read.” The Prophet related the incident: The angel caught me forcibly and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. He then released me again and asked me to read and I replied, “I do not know how to read.” Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read, but again I replied, “I do not know how to read” (or “What shall I read?”) Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said:

Read in the name of your Lord, Who created, created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Bountiful. (Al-`Alaq 96:1-3)

This happened in the year 610 CE, when the Prophet was 40 years old. During the 23 years from the revelation of these first verses, the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet in stages. It was not revealed at one time for a number of reasons: to enable the natural and steady development of the community of believers by gradually implementing the laws of God; to meet the requirements of the changing conditions and needs of that community; and to facilitate easy absorption and memorization of the Qur’an.

When the revelation progressed, the Prophet encouraged his companions to learn as many verses as possible. Whenever a revelation came, he called for a scribe and dictated it to him. He was careful to keep the revealed verses safely recorded. Consequently, the Qur’an was available in written form during the Prophet’s own time. In the Qur’an, God says what means,

This is indeed a Qur’an most honorable, in a book well guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean: a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. (Al-Waqi`ah 56:77-80)

The exact ways in which the Prophet used to recite the Qur’an were also recorded and passed down from generation to generation.

In his last sermon the Prophet said, “I have left with you something which if you will hold fast to, you will never fall into error—a plain indication, the Book of God, and the practice of His Prophet.” (See Ibn Hisham’s Biography of the Prophet Muhammad) This makes it quite evident that the Qur’an in the written form—though not necessarily in a single volume—existed during his time.

There are also three hadiths in Sahih Al-Bukhari (one of the most accurate and authentic collections of Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad)) that inform us that Angel Gabriel used to recite the Qur’an with the Prophet once a year during Ramadan, and that he recited it with him twice in the year the Prophet died.

The chief scribe who used to record the revelation dictated by the Prophet was Zayd ibn Thabit. After the Prophet’s death, in the battle of Yamamah, a large number of the companions who had memorized the Qur’an died. As a result, Caliph Abu Bakr As-Siddiq appointed Zayd to collect all the available written versions of the Qur’an and to produce a master copy.

When Zayd completed this work, he gave the collection of written materials to Abu Bakr, who kept it with him till his death. After his death, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, finally gave it to his daughter Hafsah—one of the Prophet’s wives—for safekeeping. It was from this collection of material that Caliph `Uthman ibn `Affan prepared several copies in the form of the first books of the entire Qur’an. Some of these copies still exist today.

After the Qur’an was collected in a single volume—known as a mus-haf—Caliph `Uthman sent copies of it to the different provinces that were ruled by the Muslims. The succeeding generations of Muslims always included a large number of people who memorized the Qur’an in its entirety. The extent to which the Qur’an was preserved is also evident in the fact that the way in which the Prophet Muhammad used to recite the Qur’an was also recorded and passed down from generation to generation.

To this day, the Qur’an is read and memorized by many Muslims all over the world—many of them non-Arabic speakers. The Qur’an that a Muslim in Indonesia reads or memorizes is the exact same scripture as one which a Muslim in Mauritania reads or memorizes. This is the phenomenon God mentions in the Qur’an, when He says what means,

We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption). (Al-Hijr 15:9)

 

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Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.

Professor Shahul Hameed is a consultant to the Reading Islam Website. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.

 

 

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Development of Science & Technology in Islamic History

Development of Science & Technology in Islamic History

By Saheeh International

Development of Science & Technology in Islamic HistoryThe frameworks of Islamic thought represent a comprehensive view of the life and the universe. A Muslim is thereof required to acquire both religious and worldly knowledge; in fact, Islam advocated knowledge at a time when the whole world was engulfed in ignorance. In a matter of years the early generation of Muslims became a learned and refined people, for Islam had awakened in them the faculty of intellect. Those early Muslims understood from the teachings of their religion that useful knowledge is necessary for the benefit of the self and humanity. Hence, they pursued it to such a degree that they surpass other nations in development and productivity and carried the torch of civilization for many centuries.

Muslim history abounds with examples of scientific and cultural ingenuity. Muslims inherited the knowledge of the nations that came before them, developed it and placed it in the context of a precise moral framework. Muslim scholarship made a vital contribution to the enrichment and advancement of human civilization.

While Europe was still in the dark ages, religious Muslims were making great advances in the fields of medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, literature, and history documentation to mention but a few. Many important new procedures were transmitted to medieval Europe from Muslim regions, such as Arabic numerals with the principle of the zero vital to the advancement of mathematics and the use of algebra. Sophisticated instruments, including the astrolabe and the quadrant, as well as good navigational maps, were first developed by Muslims. Only after people lost sight of their religious beliefs and obligations did the scientific achievements of the Muslim world cease and fall into obscurity.

Similarly, Islam does not now oppose any modern inventions that are beneficial to mankind. It is sufficient that they be used in the name of God and for His cause. In reality, machines, instruments and devices have no religion or homeland. They can be used for either good or bad objectives, and the way they are used can affect much the earth´s population. Even something as simple so simple as a glass can be filled either with nourishing drink or with a poison. Television can provide education or immorality. It is up to the user to decide, and a Muslim is commanded to make good use of all the means at his disposal while being prohibited from causing harm to himself or others. Failure to use the proper means toward benefit is, in effect, a deprecation of Islamic teaching.

A truly Islamic government is required to the best of its ability to provide all means that promote adequate education for its citizens. Education is the right for all individuals and the intelligent and skilled individuals in an Islamic society are required to educate themselves not only in the basics of their religion but in necessary worldly affairs. Further, it is obligatory upon qualifies people to study every beneficial field of knowledge. For example, since ever society needs doctors, it becomes obligatory for some people to go into the field of medicine to fulfill the needs of society.

Advancements in science and technology are among the ways and means to achieve development of the Muslim world. Islam calls upon Muslims to pursue knowledge in the broadest sense of the world. Prophet Muhammad said, ”For one who treads a path to knowledge, God will make it easy the path to paradise.” And the Qur’an contains numerous references to knowledge and its importance, such as:

Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alteration of night and day, and the ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to men, and the water which Allah sendeth down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and (in) the ordinance of the winds, and the clouds obedient between heaven and earth: are signs (of Allah’s sovereignty) for people who have sense. (Al-Baqarah 2:164)

Say, Are those who know equal to those who do not know? (Az-Zumar 39:9)

God will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge by degrees. (Al-Mujadilah 58:11)

Qur’anic verses encourage study and contemplation of the universe that surrounds us and is particularly concerned with those sciences that given human beings the ability to benefit from the world around them. While encouraging investigation, the Qur’an contains references to a variety of subjects which have been shown to be scientifically accurate. This is the fulfillment of God’s statement over 15 centuries ago:

We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is truth. (Fussilat 41:53)

Thus, when a Muslim has a sincere and wholesome intention to obtain knowledge, it will also have a positive effect on his faith. For knowledge reinforces textual evidence for the existence of the almighty Creator and assists in appreciation of the many scientific allusions found in the Qur’an.

There has never been an established scientific fact that contradicted the teachings of Islam. Whatever modern science discovers only increase the Muslim’s knowledge of God’s magnificent creation. Thus, Islam activity encourages scientific endeavors and the study of God’s signs in nature. It also welcomes beneficial technological advances and allows people to enjoy the fruits of human ingenuity.

To a Muslim, conflict between science and religion is impossibility, for religion comes from God and so does His system of creation and development. The modern, purely materialistic approach to scientific and technological advancement has indeed granted man a measure of physical comfort, but not mental or spiritual comfort. Islam advocates the incorporation of knowledge within a just and balanced value system where anything beneficial for one’s spiritual and worldly improvement is encouraged and advocated.

 

 

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Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture

Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture

By Salah Zaimeche

Muslims' Contribution to Agriculture 2History books in schools usually convey the notion that the agricultural revolution took place in recent times in the form of rotation of crops, advanced irrigation techniques, plant improvements, etc… some such changes only taking place in the last couple of centuries in Europe, and some even taking place nowadays.

It is explained that such revolutionary changes fed the increasing European population, released vast numbers from the land and allowed agriculture to produce a capital surplus, which was invested in industry, thus leading to the industrial revolution of the 18th-19th century.

This is the accepted wisdom until one comes across works on Muslim agriculture and discovers that such changes took place over ten centuries ago in the Muslim world, some such changes being the foundations of much of what we have today.

Watson, Glick and Bolens, in particular, indeed, show that the major breakthroughs were achieved by Muslim farmers on the land, and by Muslim scholars with their treatises on the subject.

Thus, as with other subjects, prejudice distorts history, Muslim achievements of ten centuries ago covered up; a point raised by the French scholar, Cherbonneau, who holds: ‘It is admitted with difficulty that a nation in majority of nomads could have had known any form of agricultural techniques other than sowing wheat and barley.

The misconceptions come from the rarity of works on the subject… If we took the bother to open up and consult the old manuscripts, so many views will be changed, so many prejudices will be destroyed.’

The Agricultural Revolution

As early as the ninth century, a modern agricultural system became central to economic life and organization in the Muslim land.

The great Islamic cities of the Near East, North Africa and Spain, Artz explains, were supported by an elaborate agricultural system that included extensive irrigation and an expert knowledge of the most advanced agricultural methods in the world.

The Muslims reared the finest horses and sheep and cultivated the best orchards and vegetable gardens. They knew how to fight insect pests, how to use fertilizers, and they were experts at grafting trees and crossing plants to produce new varieties.

Glick defines the Muslim agricultural revolution in the introduction of new crops, which, combined with extension and intensification of irrigation, created a complex and varied agricultural system, whereby a greater variety of soil types were put to efficient use; where fields that had been yielding one crop yearly at most prior to the Muslims were now capable of yielding three or more crops, in rotation; and where agricultural production responded to the demands of an increasingly sophisticated and cosmopolitan urban population by providing the towns with a variety of products unknown in Northern Europe.

Whilst for Scott, the agricultural system of the Spanish Muslims, in particular, was `the most complex, the most scientific, the most perfect, ever devised by the ingenuity of man.’

Such advancement of Muslim farming, according to Bolens, was owed to the adaptation of agrarian techniques to local needs, and to `a spectacular cultural union of scientific knowledge from the past and the present, from the Near East, the Maghreb, and Andalusia.

A culmination subtler than a simple accumulation of techniques, it has been an enduring ecological success, proven by the course of human history.’

Fertilizers, in their variety, were used according to a well-advanced methodology; whilst a maximum amount of moisture in the soil was preserved.

Soil rehabilitation was constantly cared for, and preserving the deep beds of cropped land from erosion was, according to Bolens, again, `the golden rule of ecology,’ and was `subject to laws of scrupulous careful ecology.’

For Scott, the success of Islamic farming also lay in hard enterprise. No natural obstacle was sufficiently formidable to check the enterprise and industry of the Muslim farmer. He tunneled through the mountains; his aqueducts went through deep ravines, and he leveled with infinite patience and labor the rocky slopes of the sierra (in Spain).

The rise of productivity of agricultural land and sometimes of agricultural labor owe to the introduction of higher yielding new crops and better varieties of old crops, through more specialized land use which often centered on the new crops, through more intensive rotations which the new crops allowed, through the concomitant extension and improvement of irrigation, through the spread of cultivation into new or abandoned areas, and through the development of more labor intensive techniques of farming.

These changes, themselves, were positively affected by changes in other sectors of the economy: growth of trade, enlargement of the money economy, increasing specialization of factors of production in all sectors, and with the growth of population and its increasing urbanization.

Irrigation, from Andalusia to the far East, from the Sudan to Afghanistan, remained central, `the basis of all agriculture and the source of all life.’

The ancient systems of irrigation the Muslims became heirs to were in an advanced state of decay, and ruins.’

The Muslims repaired them and constructed new ones; besides devising new techniques to catch, channel, store and lift the water, and making ingenious combinations of available devices.

All of the Kitab al-Filahat (book of agriculture), whether Maghribi, Andalusian; Egyptian, Iraqi; Persian or Yemenite, Bolens points out, insist meticulously on the deployment of equipment and on the control of water.

 

Water Management

Muslims' Contribution to Agriculture 1Water, so precious a commodity in a more Islamically aware age, was managed according to stringent rules, any waste of the resource banned, and the most severe economy enforced. Thus, in the Algerian Sahara various water management techniques were used to make the most effective use of the resource.

The Foggaras, a network of underground galleries, conducted water from one place to the other over very long distances so as to avoid evaporation. Although the system is still in use today, the tendency at present is for over-use and waste of water. Still in Algeria, in the Beni Abbes region, in the Sahara, south of Oran, farmers used a clepsydra to determine the duration of water use for every user in the area.

This clepsydra regulates with precision, and night and day, the amount going to each farmer, timed by the minute, throughout the year, and taking into account seasonal variations. Each farmer is informed of the timing of his turn, and summoned to undertake necessary action to ensure effective supply to his plot.

In Spain, the same strict management was in operation. The water conducted from one canal to the other was used more than once, the quantity supplied accurately graduated; distributing outlets were adapted to each soil variety, two hundred and twenty four of these, each with a specific name.

All disputes and violations of laws on water were dealt with by a court-whose judges were chosen by the farmers themselves, this court named The Tribunal of the Waters, which sat on Thursdays at the door of the principal mosque. Ten centuries later, the same tribunal still sits in Valencia, but at the door of the cathedral.

 

The Loss of Ecological Balance

`With a deep love for nature, and a relaxed way of life, classical Islamic society,’ Bolens concludes, `achieved ecological balance, a successful average economy of operation, based not on theory but on the acquired knowledge of many civilized traditions.’

It was colonialism, she recognizes, which subsequently and seriously upset the traditional agricultural balance in order to increase profitability for the colonizers.

The decline of agriculture as the destruction of other aspects of Islamic civilization had, however, begun with the various invaders, from the Crusaders to the Mongols, from the Banu Hillal to the Normans and Spain’s conquistadors in the West. Such invasions caused the ruin of irrigation works, destroyed permanent crops, closed down trade routes, and caused farmers to take flight.

The Muslim farmers also became over taxed by their new masters in Christian Spain and Sicily, and were exterminated in those countries; their system perishing with them.

The later colonizers, the French, only finished off whatever was left. No better place to see that than in Algeria, where the French on arrival in 1830 found a much greener country than the one they left 130 years later, and a population living more or less in harmony with its environment. In their wars of devastation against Algerian resistance, the French destroyed the garden rings that surrounded towns and cities, cutting trees and orchards.

After that, they deforested whole regions to exploit timber, and took all fertile lands from their Muslim owners, forcing them to subside on arid lands, and in the vicinity of forests causing their degradation.

Later, during the war of independence 1954-62, the French set ablaze millions of acres of forest lands; and then departed, leaving a legacy of bareness and hostility to greenery from which the Algerians have not recovered yet.

 

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Courtesy www.muslimheritage.com with slight editorial modifications to the original article titled: Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture.

FSTC stands for the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization. The Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC) is a British not-for-profit, non-political, and non-religious organisation founded in 1999 by a group of philanthropic historians, scientists, engineers and social scientists. It is dedicated to researching and popularising the history of pre-Renaissance civilisations, especially the Muslim civilisation, that have had an impact upon the scientific, technological and cultural heritage of our modern world.

 

 

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Learning Institutions in Islam

Learning Institutions in Islam

By Muslimheritage.com

Learning Institutions in IslamLearning institutions in Muslims lands took a variety of shapes and sizes and ranged from Madrasas, khans, Mosques, and academies of diverse sorts. These institutions, as S.P. Scott notes, [1]

“….composed voluminous treatises on surgery and medicine. They bestowed upon the stars the Arabic names which still cover the map of the heavens. Above the lofty station of the muezzin, as he called the devout to prayer, were projected against the sky the implements of science to whose uses religion did not refuse the shelter of her temples,—the gnomon, the astrolabe, the pendulum clock, and the armillary sphere.” [2]

It is already known that institutions such as al-Qayrawan, al-Qarawiyyin and al-Azhar, above all, were amongst the first universities throughout history. Another great body of institutions initiated by the Muslims were the Madrasas, or colleges, [3] of which Ibn Jubayr (d. 614H/1217CE) counted thirty on his visit to Baghdad. Before we take a close look at a Madrasa by the name of al-Mustansiriyah, [4] we will first receive a background of how learning institutions thrived in Muslim lands.

Background

Following the establishment of Seljuk rule, Muslim lands experienced a considerable rise in the number of scholarly institutions, which were largely sponsored by the powerful and wealthy elite. Hence, in Iraq it was the Vizier Nizam al-Mulk (d. 485H/1092CE) that both founded and took responsibility for the spread of Madrasas within his jurisdiction. Al-Mulk founded the Madrasa system towards 459H/1066CE within Baghdad, and was then responsible for the spread of such institutions to the more Eastern parts of the Muslim World. According to Abu Shamah, ‘the schools founded by Nizam al-Mulk are very famous all over the world. No single village lacks one of these schools.’ [5] The state exercised some supervision over teaching, such as that at the Nizamiyya, in which the permission of the Caliph had to be obtained before a teaching post was occupied. [6]

Following Nizam al-Mulk, it became a practice, or rather a competition between rulers, to build more Madrasas. Nur ad-Din, who ascended to the throne in 541H/1148CE, founded many such institutions in Damascus and the other large cities of his kingdom. In Egypt, it was Salah ad-Din who founded five colleges in Cairo, followed by over twenty six other such Madrasas that were established by both his followers and later Mamluk sultans. [7] Individuals, too, did the same. A Madrasa for women was established in Cairo in 634H/1237CE by the daughter of the Mamluk Sultan Tahir, while Khatun, the daughter of Malik Ashraf constructed a women’s Madrasa in Damascus; yet another such Madrasa was founded by Zamurrad, wife of Nasir ad-Din of Aleppo. [8] The spread of the Madrasa was so rapid that at some point in the medieval times, according to Tawtah, [9] there were 73 colleges in Damascus, 41 in Jerusalem, 40 in Baghdad, 14 in Aleppo, 13 in Tripoli, 9 in al-Mawsil and 74 in Cairo, in addition to numerous institutions in other cities. A later author, writing around 1,500, counted about 150 Madrasas in Damascus alone. [10] At some point, the whole of the Muslim land with the exception of Spain and Sicily was just a wide, dense network of colleges, of varying sizes, providing education to tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of pupils, at a time, when education in Europe was just the privilege of a minority of clergy or the top elite, most certainly not exceeding the few hundreds.

Jerusalem had a great number of famed institutions, described in great detail by the late medieval scholar, Qadi Mudjir ad-Din (d. 918H/1521CE). [11] Inside al-Aqsa Mosque, just near the women’s area, is the Madrasa Farisiya founded by Emir Faris ad-Din al-Baky. There were also the Madrasas Nahriya and Nasiriya. The latter was named after the Jerusalem scholar, Sheikh Nasr, before it became known as the Ghazaliya, after the famed scholar al-Ghazali, as it was a place both of his residence and employment. Outside of al-Aqsa Mosque were the Qataniya, the Fakriya, al-Baladiya and the Tankeziya. The latter, says Ibn Mudjir, is an immense Madrasa, situated on the Khatt road (it is also worth noting that the founder of this Madrasa Emir Tankiz Nasri, vice ruler of Syria, was also responsible for building the aqueduct for the water supply of Jerusalem). A number of the Madrasas within and around al-Aqsa Mosque were built by Turkish women. For example, the Madrasa Othmania was constituted in trust by a woman belonging to one of the greatest families of the country, Isfahan Shah Khatun in the year 920H/1523CE. Earlier, in 751H/1354CE, the Khatuniya Madrasa was constituted in a trust by Oghl Khatun, daughter of Shams ad-Din Mohammed ibn Sayf ad-Din of Baghdad. This Madrasa itself was financed by the local businesses. [12]

Shalaby offers an excellent description of one such illustrious Madrasa: al-Nuriyyah al-Kubra in Damascus [13] founded by Nur ad-Din, which was described by Ibn Jubair as one of the best colleges in the world. [14] Here follows the summary of Shalaby’s description:

“The school is situated in Khatt al-Khawwasin which is now called `al-Khayyarin’, about half a mile south west of the Umayyad Mosque. The school has a ‘monumental’ entrance: an arch with an outer door, and a broad passage leading to the court with a second door halfway along. The lintel of the outer door is adorned with the endowment tablet. The school had its Iwan, which then, was the most important place in the Muslim school. It is the equivalent of the modern lecture room, and there where the halaqat were held. Not far from the Iwan was the Mosque, which took the significant place in a medieval school. The Mosque was also open to other worshippers, and it was thus normal that it was remote from the Iwan. The school also included eight lodges for the students, and the caretaker’s lodgings, the latrines, and also a kitchen and dining hall, the food store, and the general store for the building. This Madrasa, in most parts, still stands up to now.”[15]

Al-Mustansiriyah

Madrasas varied in size and layout, some were small with one or two classrooms, whilst others were much larger, and with huge libraries, and facilities and large lecture halls. As far as al-Mustansiriyah is concerned, according to Dodge, it was the college which, at the time, ‘most closely resembled a university.’ Two good descriptions, taken from original sources: Yaqut [16] and Naji [17], by Dodge [18] and Nakosteen [19] which are presented together below:

“The Mustansiriyah was founded in 631 H/1234 A.D by Caliph al-Mustansir. He was the penultimate Abbasid Caliph, the father of al-Mustassim, who was later to be put to death by Hulagu. It was located immediately south of the Gharabah gate, on the shore of the Tigris. It was built as a large, two-storied structure. In its outward appearance, and its internal sumptuousness and wealth, the Mustansiriyah surpassed all that was previously seen in Islam. It was oblong in shape with a great open court in the centre. Around the courtyard there were rooms for teachers and students, opening out to arched cloisters. Nearby, the Great Mosque of the Palace (Jami al-Kasr) was also restored by Mustansir, who also restored the four platforms (Dikkah) on the Western side of the pulpit. There, the students sat and held their disputations after the Friday public prayers. The remains of this Mosque still exist to the present.

“At the Mustansiriyah, professors received monthly salaries, and the three hundred students received each one gold dinar a month. The college had large lecture halls, where students were taught by a head professor and his assistants. There were also small classes, tutorial like, of a teacher for ten students. Students learnt subjects that included the traditional linguistic, legal and religious subjects, but also arithmetic, land surveying, history, poetry, hygiene, the care of animals and plants and other phases of natural history. There was also a course in medicine with a physician in charge.

“The Mustansiriyah included major facilities. It had a very large library, manned by a librarian with an assistant and attendants. According to Ibn al-Furat, the library (Dar al-Kutub) had rare books dealing with various sciences, and made available easily to students, either for consultation, or copying. Pens and paper were supplied, and so were lamps and due provision of oil. The students also received medical care and financial aid, in addition to free tuition. Daily rations of bread and meat were also provided to all inmates by a large kitchen. Somewhere in the building were store rooms and bathing facilities (hamam). Also attached to the college was a hospital with a dispensary and rooms for teaching medicine. One of the rarities of the Mustansiriyah was its famous clock, set in a design of the heavens, with twelve doors, each opening to announce the hour.

“The Caliph al-Mustansir himself took great interest and passion in the work of ‘his’ institution and inspected it nearly every day. He also had a belvedere (Manzarah) overlooking the college, with a window opening upon one of the college halls, from where he watched the building, and heard the lectures of the professors and the disputations of the students. Just a century after its foundation, Ibn Battuta, who visited Baghdad in AH 727 (1327), speaks of the magnificence of the place, which by miracle, escaped the Mongol sacking of Baghdad (in 1258). He states that lectures were still provided. Twelve years after him, the geographer Hamd Allah also refers to the Mustansiriyah as the most beautiful building in Baghdad.

“The Mustansiriyah appears to have stood intact for many centuries, but surely not by the mid-18th. Then, when Niebuhr visited Baghdad in 1750, he found that the ancient kitchen of the college was being used as a weighing house. Today, only ruins of it remain.”

“The age of Arabian learning,” Gibbon observes, “continued about five hundred years, till the great eruption of the Moguls, and was coeval with the darkest and most slothful period of European annals; but since the sun of science has arisen in the West, it should seem that the Oriental studies have languished and declined.” [20]

Conclusion

Given Islam’s love for knowledge and its elevation of scholars and writers to exalted positions, the evolution of a publishing industry was a foregone conclusion at the advent of Islam [21]. Within one hundred years after the advent of Islam, a sophisticated and highly integrated book industry was flourishing in the Muslim world. Techniques were evolved for each stage of book production: composition, copying, illustrating, binding, publishing, storing and selling. Reading books, as well as hearing them being dictated, became one of the major occupations and pastimes. In certain major cities, such as Baghdad and Damascus, almost half the population was involved in some aspect of book production and publication. However, book production was both an industry and an institution, an institution with its own customs and practices, its own checks against fraud and misrepresentation and, above all, an institution that ensured that learning and books were not the prerogative of a select few but were available to all those who had the desire. It also ensured that the scholars and authors themselves also benefited, both economically and in terms of recognition from their work [22].

 

REFERENCES

[1] S. P. Scott: History of the Moorish Empire in Europe; Philadelphia and London: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1904, vol. 3; p. 468.

[2] Ibid, p. 468.

[3] For a summary on the role and impact of the Madrasa: -George Makdisi: The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West; Edinburgh University Press, 1990. -B. Dodge: Muslim Education in the Medieval Times; the Middle East Institute; Washington D.C; 1962.

[4] Ibn Jubayr in J. Pedersen, The Arabic Book, translated by G. French, Princeton-New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984, p. 128.

[5] Quoted in A. Shalaby. History of Muslim Education, Beirut: Dar Al Kashaf, 1954, p. 58.

[6] A. S. Tritton: Muslim Education in the Middle Ages. London: Luzac and Co. Ltd., 1957, p. 91.

[7] Bayard Dodge: Muslim Education in Medieval Times; op cit; p. 22.

[8] S. M. Hossain: A Plea for a Modern Islamic University; op cit; p. 100.

[9] Bayard Dodge, Muslim Education in Medieval Times; Washington D.C.: The Middle East Institute, 1962, p. 23.

[10] J. Pedersen: The Arabic Book, p. 128.

[11] Mudjir Eddin: Al-Euns al-jalil bi Tarikh el-Qods wa’l Khalil, translated into French as Histoire de Jerusalem et Hebron, by H. Sauvaire; Paris; Ernest Leroux; 1875; and 1926; pp. 140 fwd.

[12] Mudjir Eddin: Al-Euns (Histoire de Jerusalem); p. 145.

[13] A. Shalaby: History, op cit, pp. 65-67.

[14] Ibn Jubayr: Al-Rihla, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, Tr. R.J.C. Broadhurst, Jonathan Cape, 1952 , p. 284).

[15] A. Shalaby: History, op cit, pp 65-7.

[16] Yaqut: Irshad al-Arib ila Ma’arifat al-Adib, or Muja’am al-Udaba (Dictionary of learned men), edt. D.S. Margoliouth (Luzac, 1907 ff), Vol.V, p. 231. Vol VI. p. 343.

[17] Ma’ruf, Naji, al-Madrassah al-Mustansiryah, Nadi al-Muthanna, Baghdad, 1935.

[18] B. Dodge: Muslim education, op cit, pp 23-4.

[19] M. Nakosteen: History of Islamic Origins of Western Education: 800-1350. Boulder-Colorado: University of Colorado Press, 1964, pp. 50-1.

[20] E. Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. J. M. Dent, 1962, vol 6; 1925 ed; pp. 28.

[21] Z. Sardar and M.W. Davies: Distorted Imagination; op cit; p. 97.

[22] Ibid.

 

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Taken with slight editorial modifications from muslimheritage.com.

 

 

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Prophet Muhammad’s Call to Muslims to Serve People

Prophet Muhammad’s Call to Muslims to Serve People

 

The call is to all people

natural-sceneryThe religion of Islam is the religion of benevolence to the people. Therefore the honorable Prophet (peace be upon him) was the best practical example for serving people and meeting their needs.

His sayings are full of examples of exhorting Muslims to serve one another and help others because the one who helps his Muslim brothers, Allah will be in his support. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “He who alleviates the suffering of a brother out of the sufferings of the world, Allah would alleviate his suffering from the sufferings of the Day of Resurrection, and he who finds relief for one who is hard pressed, Allah would make things easy for him in the world and in the Hereafter, and he who conceals (the faults) of a Muslim, Allah would conceal his faults in the world and in the Hereafter. Allah is at the back of a servant so long as the servant is at the back of his brother.”

Imam An-Nawawi said: “This is a great Hadith, which collects all kind of sciences, rules, and proprieties. Moreover, it contains the virtue of meeting people’s needs and benefiting them with Knowledge, money, aid, advantage, and advice, etc.”

Likewise, the Prophet (peace be upon him) exhorted Muslims to fulfill peoples’ needs. `Abdullah in `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.”

Scholars said: As for his saying: “Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother,” it means: Fulfill it by action or by being a cause for it.

Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When a person makes efforts to help his brother, he earns the reward for performing I`tikaf for ten years. Whomsoever performs I`tikaf for a day, thereby seeking the pleasure of Allah, Allah will spread three trenches between him and the fire of Hell, the width of each trench being greater than the distance between heaven and earth.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to help the needy

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “And assisting a man to ride upon his beast, or helping him load his luggage upon it, is a Sadaqah; and a good word is a Sadaqah.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to the general benefit of people

Jabir ibn `Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: A scorpion stung one of us as we were sitting with Allah’s Messenger (may peace upon him).

Thereupon, a man said: O Messenger Allah, Shall I use incantation (for curing the effect of sting)? Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Whoever among you is able to benefit his brother, then let him do so. This Hadith is general in all things that may contain benefits, so anyone is able to benefit his Muslim brother or people in general should do so.

The Prophet’s exhortation that a person serves his friends

The Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by a man who used to bake bread for his companions during a journey and the heat of fire harmed him.

Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “He shall never be harmed by the heat of Hell-Fire.” Abu `Ubaidah said: The Hadith is a proof that the Messenger of Allah praised that man for serving his companions during the journey.

The Prophet’s exhortation to look after the widow and the needy

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah’s Cause, or like him who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to treat orphans well and fulfill their needs

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I and the one who looks after an orphan will be like this in Paradise,” showing his middle and index fingers and separating them.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to reconcile between people by saying: “And for every day on which the sun rises there is a reward of a Sadaqah (i.e. charitable gift) for the one who establishes justice among people.”

The Hadith contains exhortation to reconcile among people. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Abu Ayyub (may Allah be pleased with him): Shall I guide you to a charity which pleases Allah and His Messenger? He said: Yes, O Messenger of Allah. He said: Reconcile between people when their relations are corrupt and bring them near when they are apart.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to help the fool

Abu Dhar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: I asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): “What is the best deed?” He replied: “To believe in Allah and to fight for His Cause.” I then asked, “What is the best kind of manumission (of slaves)?” He replied, “The manumission of the most expensive slave and the most beloved by his master.” I said: “If I cannot afford to do that?” He said, “Help the weak or do good for a person who cannot work for himself.” I said, “If I cannot do that?” He said, “Refrain from harming others for this will be regarded as a charitable deed for your own good.”

The Prophet’s exhortation to spend for the sake of Allah and guide the lost

Al Bara’ ibn `Azib (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that he heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say, “If anyone gives a Manihah of milk or silver, or guides one who is lost then he will get reward for setting free a male slave or a female slave.”

So, we are in dire need to ponder over these examples, their meanings, and wisdom because there are no instructions equal or even try to reach its status.

We need to apply them and act according to their instructions.

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