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Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, considered the inventor of Algebra (780-850)
Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, considered the inventor of Algebra (780-850)

The title of this write-up may seem a little incongruous as common perception dictates that science and religion are essentially two different entities. That may be true, but there was a time, some centuries ago, when Islam and science were good bedfellows ushering in what is graciously called the “Golden Age” of Islam. Sometimes this Golden Age is flashed around to proclaim an illustrious ancestry of Islam and implicitly claim that Islam can attain the same greatness in this modern world. At other times, die hard Islamists insist that to achieve greatness one has to go back to the period when this was achieved and hence they hark back to 7th century conditions including the establishment of Sharia laws.

So, what is this “Golden Age”? In essence, the Islamic kingdom from the beginning of 8th century to the middle of 13th century is assigned as the glorious period when science and technology, art and culture, music and medicine and so forth all flourished under the patronage of the state. The Arab kingdom, under the Umayyad Caliphate from 661AD to 750AD having Damascus as the capital and then the Abbasid Caliphate from 751AD to 1258AD having Baghdad as the capital, was the melting pot of all human knowledge. The reason for such an epoch rise in human culture and knowledge within just a few decades of the establishment of Islam was that the kingdom that encompassed Persia on the East to Lebanon on the West, Egypt and North Africa on the South to the steeps of Asia Minor on the North brought together the talents from all corners of the kingdom and beyond. Greek science and technology, arts and literature were all translated into Arabic and ilm or knowledge was actively encouraged by the state. All great minds of the kingdom were given all the accumulated knowledge – translated from Greek, Latin etc. – and encouraged to pursue knowledge unencumbered by theological constraints. “Go even unto China to seek knowledge” was the guiding philosophy of that period.

Tremendous progress was made in many scientific fields, many new disciplines had been invented. Algebra was invented by Muhammad al-Khwarizmi (780 – 850AD) – a Persian working in Baghdad, who not only introduced Indian decimal concept and numeral system but also put forward logical thinking in a form which came to be known as Algorithm. This algorithm is used even now as the starting point of computer programming. Another Persian, Muhammad al-Farabi (872 – 950AD) was the most prominent scientist and philosopher of the day and wrote on physics, cosmology, psychology, philosophy and on many more. Yet another Persian scholar Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973 – 1048AD) was regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics and other natural sciences. He was a prolific scientific writer and wrote 146 treatises. His major accomplishment was that he calculated the circumference of the earth using his trigonometric methods and that calculation came within 200 miles of the actual circumference of 24,900 miles! He was a great linguist too – he could converse in Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit, and knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. Muhammad Zakariya al-Razi (854 – 925AD) of Persia was the pioneer in medical sciences who invented distillation of alcohol and its use in medicine, identified measles and small pox and wrote a treatise on them which remained the guiding light for centuries. He was the author of the encyclopaedia of medicine spanning over twenty three volumes. Abu al-Husayn ibn-Sina was a philosopher and the most authoritative physician of the day (980 -1037 AD) and produced multi-volume medical survey which was translated into Latin. There were many more physicists, mathematicians, astronomers and medical professionals who contributed to the great achievements of that “Golden Age”.

Now, did that great assimilation of knowledge in the “Golden Age” disappear almost all of a sudden following the collapse of Abbasid Caliphate as a result of Mongol invasion in 1258? Can an empire as well as the human achievement and intellect disappear overnight? Admittedly, other civilisations of the past such as the Greek Civilisation, Indian Civilisation, Chinese Civilisation etc. all came and gone, but none did disappear without a trace of intellectual heritage for future generations to follow as in the case of Islamic “Golden Age”.

To seek out the answer one has to look back at what was happening at the dying days or years of the Abbasid Caliphate. Like any great empire in decline, Abbasid Caliphate was disintegrating for quite some time. In Spain, Christians reconquered Cordoba in 1236 and then Seville in 1248. But the last nail in the coffin was the siege and occupation of Baghdad by Mongols in 1258, thereby bringing an end to the dying empire. For decades or even a century or over, there were internal tension and conflict between the Mu’tazilites who embraced rational thinking and inquisitiveness and the Ash’arités who were anti rationalists. This Ash’arités movement was dogmatic Sunni Muslim movement which held the view that rationalist view was anti-Islamic. Things do happen as God wishes to happen, not as a priori or a posteriori.

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111AD) argued that rationalism was incompatible with Islamic teaching. As God’s will is completely free and unencumbered, His wishes are supreme and could not be compromised by rationalisation of causes and effects. A storm takes place because God wishes it that way to punish the affected people for their misdeeds, not as a result of meteorological condition. Rain falls not as a result of precipitation and condensation of cloud, but by sheer God’s will. By his dogmatic interpretation of Islam he gave a philosophical underpinning of religion and brought Sunni Islam very close to Sufi philosophy.

Following the collapse of Abbasid Caliphate, Ash’arités movement supported by Ghazalites took hold in the Islamic world. From that time on, Islam had been going on the opposite direction to the Western Christianity which embraced Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment. Admittedly, Christianity had its turbulent periods when different theological strands vied against each other and did everything to eliminate each other, but eventually rationality prevailed over darkness. Christianity came out of the dark ages bruised and battered, but with its theology intact as long as its boundary is properly demarcated and ring fenced. In other words, in Christianity theology is numinous undertaking segregated from the workings of the nation state.

Islam does not want to accept such segregation of duties and responsibilities. It wants to encroach on the state responsibilities covering politics, economics, education and every other field of human endeavour. How could a state function when religion tells that there is no rationality, no cause and effect; everything moves as God desires? How could state develop economically or intellectually when religion puts a stopper over its advancement? One simple event will expose this disconnect.

Some years ago, when I went from Britain to Saudi Arabia as a Consultant on Radiological Protection, I was invited to present a paper on ‘Effects of radiation on human beings’ at an international seminar in Riyadh. The seminar was very well attended with many British, American, German, Swedish and Finnish experts. There were high level Saudi presence too including the Saudi Interior Minister, Health Minister and Saudi Atomic Energy Commission’s chairman and so forth. As I presented my paper in English, it had to be translated into Arabic as I spoke. During the presentation, I said that there was a contemporary scientific view that radiation might have caused mutation in human genes that helped the process of evolution. My translator, a clever Egyptian man, stopped at that point and then came over to me to say, “Sir, I cannot translate this line. If I do, not only I but also you would be arrested for blasphemy.” Then it dawned on me that this is the fundamentalist country where there is no evolution, God made everything. We proceeded without this sentence and any other reference to Darwinism.

In most of the fundamentalist Muslim countries, education at schools, colleges and universities proceed without any reference to evolution, natural selection etc. Islamic teaching takes precedence over scientific developments – God created earth, sun, moon and everything some 10,000 years ago; everything happens as God desires; human beings must pray to God to please Him and He will give things as He pleases. With such blockheadedness, it is no wonder that science and technology have disappeared from the Islamic world.

Physics Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg (who shared the prize with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow in 1979) said, “Though there are talented scientists of Muslim origin working productively in the West, for forty years I have not seen a single paper by a physicist or an astronomer working in a Muslim country that was worth reading.”

Theoretical physicist Abdus Salam
Theoretical physicist Abdus Salam

Even Prof Abdus Salam, a Muslim of Pakistani origin, who carried out his groundbreaking research in the UK, had to suffer the ignominy of being declared a non-Muslim by the Pakistani authorities as he was of the Shia Ahmadi sect. Before his death in 1996, he wished to be buried at his home country, Pakistan. After the burial, he was declared non-Muslim and his graveyard was desecrated by Muslim zealots!

From time to time, Western leaders patronisingly speak about Muslim heritage and scientific and intellectual contributions to civilisations, but the fact remains that those contributions were nearly 1,000 or more years ago and mostly by people (Shias) who are now considered either non-Muslims or renegade Muslims by Wahhabi Sunnis.

Now, going back to the fundamental question, what caused the catastrophic collapse of “Golden Age” of Islam after the fall of Abbasid Caliphate? Why it could not have been revived in any of the 56 Muslim majority states of the world? The answer is quite simple. Islam, or its fundamental version of it, is not compatible with science and technology. Prof. Steven Weinberg claimed that after Ghazali there was no more science worth mentioning in Islamic countries. Only way Islamic countries can revive the culture of scientific studies is to relegate Islam to back burners, far away from the state functions. In other words, there should be strict enforcement of secularism and that should be institutionalised. Otherwise, Islam will keep creeping back to damage scientific disciplines.

A. Rahmanis an author and columnist.

27 Responses to “Science and Islam”

  1. Dr. Hasanat Mohammad Husain MBE

    I would like to draw your attention to the follwing two books :

    1. Scientific Indications in the Holy Quran – written by a Board of researchers ie. Prof. Shamsher Ali, Prof. M. A. Jabbar, Prof. Salar Khan, Prof. Kh. Mannan….; published by Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh

    2. Ideals and Realities – Selected Essays of Abdus Salam.
    ‘The less-developed World : How can we be Optimists? by Prof. Abdus Salam

  2. WQ

    Fantastic article, Mr Rahman ! You have shown courage writing this article eventhough it is inevitable you will be derided for apparently criticising Islam. Many of us know this is not the case. You have been brave enough to express these thoughts which have been residing in the minds of many people, too afraid to say anything.

    We have seen evidence of this separation of Islam and conventional education system when we go to the villages of Bangladesh; where many Madrasa students (not all) do not have the basic understanding of language, science and mathematics, the tools necessary for the economic growth of a country.

    I will however, have to disagree with your closing statement -‘…. In other words, there should be strict enforcement of secularism and that should be institutionalised. Otherwise, Islam will keep creeping back to damage scientific disciplines.’ Most of the Muslim countries like Bangladesh do not understand (or are ready to understand) the concept of secularism, considering it being the same as having NO RELIGION. I agree that Islam has to be kept separate from the State, but on the side-burners as one of the respondents mentioned.

    The key is to have a moderate Muslim country focussing on education, good governance and reducing corruption. The rest will follow a logical progression over a long period of time.

  3. Akteruzzaman Chowdhury

    Mr. A Rahman is a regular writer in this web. His writings are interesting at times but this one has hit the nail and provoked many comments. If he was living in Bangladesh he would not dare to put Islam on the ‘back burner’. I would suggest he put Islam on the ‘side burner’. Islam should go parallel to affairs of governance and economy and not interfere totally.

    To breed intellect you need an economic incubator. The Arab gulf countries have been the richest countries in the world for two decades, but they have not shown any intellectual progress. China is becoming the biggest economy in the world and they already have the biggest manufacturing base. Are the Chinese intellectually advanced? For a better world these anomalies will be corrected.

  4. Golam Arshad

    WHAT IS Secularism? AND how it is defined in Bangladesh context. Currently, the Party AL in deep confusion. How can the Party two diagonally ideals in practice. Secularism and State Religion to be Islam. Prime Minister knows it very well. That this inner clash of ideals ONLY she can define better And she knows. It too, this will be in Trouble later. Her passage of Fifteenth and Sixteenth Amendment will be better handled by her than anyone else in the Party. Later, it will run in to enormous difficulty. The people of Fair Wisdom are struggling to maintain the current status quo, as they say, keep for now Quiet inSuspended Animation, but time is running fast, if there is NO POLITICAL COMPROMISE! It is Not who retains WHAT but it means what is Good and Healthy for the National Interest.

  5. Dr Mudhasir Ahmad

    Mr A Rahman
    May peace be with you..

    I think you have raised some very valid points except few mistakes, though it doesn’t matter. The point is that Islam had provided a right ingredient to the mix during their Golden age. But they disintegrated to fast and didn’t consolidate it..

    You know.. It does not matter whether they lasted or not. What matters is that they showed a tremendous example for the success of the human race during that brief period..
    It was achieved only with right governance, control of corruption, free speech, mutual respect, inclusive existence, and promotion of various sciences..

    That is the bottom line which will help us and all of you to make this world a better place..

  6. A K M Zahidul Islam, UK

    I agree with some of the points with the writer of the link, a radiologist probably, saving the fact that the so called “strict adherence” to the so called “Islamic principles” and its encroachments into the state affairs led to the situation that the Muslim (scientific) scholars are so few now a days.

    This is also not true that only the presence or absence of a “codified” religion was the main determinant in the history which led to this sitution. Even during the “golden age”, the writer has referred to, Islam was much more dominant in the common people’s day to day lives. But it was during that time, when the so called Muslims (I say so called, because it were not the religious identity that was important, but the opportunities being offered to the people engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and scientific studies, that mattered) did contribute the most in the world of knowledge.

    (By the way, the inclusion or exclusion of the Darwinism in the school curriculum is debated with enthusiasm even in the modern day Western world. Not only in the countries like Saudi Arabia, that the writer has mentioned. Example of Saudi Arabia is no way a typical one for the muslims countries. We studied Darwinism in our HSC curriculum. Countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, or Malaysia are having minimal invasion of Islam in the state affairs, but still failed to show until now any outstanding scientific contributions).

    He says that the muslims believe that the world was created by Allah 10,000 years ago. I am pasting a quote from the article published in the Guardian related to a published article in the journal Scientific American.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/feb/24/usa.schools

    “The journal (Scientific American) says that a startling 45 per cent of Americans now believe God created life some time in the past 10,000 years, despite research that has established the universe as 13 billion years old and that men and women are descended from apelike ancestors”.

    So? The gentleman quoted it to be a belief of the muslims; while it is the belief of about half of the “Modern” American population This belief didn’t held back America from being the most contributing nation in the modern day science.

    This is a deliberate attempt to a attach anything backward, with Islam. My contention is, thus baseless desperation makes the thing worse; and extremists should be fought by a better ideas, not by “extremist progressive” ideology. Because, “to every action, there is a equal and opposite reaction”. (third law of Newton, holds not only in the world of physics, but in the analysis of the conflicting social forces also).

    He goes onto to say that the Golden Age vanished without a trace. But he mentions that the Algebra, Numerical analysis, algorithms, use of the zero successfully, the modern approach to medicine etc, etc. were the contributions of the muslims. He is, probably, a man of science. Naturally he forgot to mention that the muslims also introduced the discipline, what we call the study of history today.

    I am not here to list what are the contributions of the so called muslims, because that will rather reinforce his notion of the role of religions as the sole cause of the progress or backwardness of the civilizations.

    His casual mention of the clashes among the Christian factions for centuries, as if it were not a big thing to mention, indicates his poor knowledge of history or at best a deliberate attempt to ignore a fact because it is not fitting well to his own agenda he wants to pursue here.

    He forgot to mention the role of Spain as the most important seat of learning during the muslim era, through which the much of the Western Europe, including the UK was enlightened with the advanced scientific knowledge (including the founding of the Cambridge University, Reference: The History of Christianity, BBC series, available as torrent downloadable form. I would strongly recommend this series, presented by a sitting professor of history of the Oxford University, to watch. It is very interesting, and if you haven’t watched it already, you will surely enjoy it.)

    I just want to ask him, what exactly we remember from the lost civilizations he has mentioned like that of the China, India, Egypt, Greece or the Romans in today’ day to day life? Not many, are they? Are not the contributions of the muslims he himself has mentioned in the article, still very much visible even after (according his saying) 1,000 years? What he wants to say here, is not very clear. Half learned people are more desperate in expressing personal confusing beliefs in public. This gentleman will continue to do better as a radiology, rather than attempting to write such an article full of wrong information, leading to wrong conclusions.

    The muslim era could successfully accumulate much of the progress of the human knowledge of that time, and enhanced it. Just like many of the western countries successfully doing it now. They were the first who engaged the Jews of Iraq who took shelter there due the persecutions of the Christians, to translate many books of knowledge written in Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Latin. These Jews did know the languages, and for this translations, they were duly rewarded and honoured. Were not “beheaded”.

    Jews are by far strict practitioners of their religions in their personal and even in their state affairs, including Israil. European Jews’ contribution in the fields of scientific and other faculties of knowledge is disproportionately higher than their population percentage, which includes personalities like Einstein, Marx, Freud etc.

    [This year’s “Math Nobel” was given to four mathematicians, one of them is a muslim female, born and studied in Iran and in the US, Maryam Mirzakhani (any female ever to win the prize), one is a hindu mathematician, born in Canada, Manjul Bhargava, one Artur Avila from Brazil, and Martin Hairer of Australia. Math is the root of many other scientific developments. We expected few more from the western countries to get this prize, didn’t we? What a contrast of getting it by an Iranian female! ]

    I say all these, because, I strongly believe that it is the economic and political opportunities given to the people, that matters the most. These opportunities itself push the boundaries of the choices of the people. The push is so much, that any other “reactionary forces” (I’m using this term here consciously) gradually get defeated.

    Nature abhors vacuum. In absence of good forces, the evil ones rule.

    Zahed, you have said it right. The IS is not created by the West, but it is an outcome of the western policies, and acts what they have done there.

    Because, they have left behind a vacuum, and destroyed relatively better forces, the vacuum is occupied by the IS, the Evil Force.

    So, it is the investment in the science and scientific areas which will bring in the fastest changes. It is happening in countries like Bangladesh. Bangladesh tripled its food production in last 40 years. With much more per capita land, a significant portion of the earlier Bangladeshi’s would starve to death. Females of Bangladesh is probably registering the highest growth of scientific education. The role of religion will automatically be reduced. It’s like a shadow behind you. Don’t fight it. You will be covered by the dark shade of the shadow. Progress towards the light, the shadow will automatically fall behind.

    I know many of my friends will not agree with me.

    Zahid

    • Dr A Rahman

      Mr Zahid Islam’s dismissive attitude ‘a radiologist probably’ is contemptible. This guy should know that Saudi Arabia does not hire ‘a radiologist’ as the Consultant on Radiological Protection to the Ministry of Interior. However, not knowing the level of education of this guy, I would not dwell on this aspect any more.
      This guy is riddled with misconception, misplaced ego and sheer ignorance. He said that Jews are far more religious than the Muslims and still they managed much higher scientific achievement – he mentioned Einstein, Marx and Freud as examples. He should know that all of these three people are self-proclaimed atheists, although they were born Jews.

    • david

      “I strongly believe that it is the economic and political opportunities given to the people, that matters the most.”

      Excellent comments. however, I think the underlying question would be what creates or gives rise to those economic and political opportunities. Is Islam able to do that in the modern world ?
      That remains unclear I think

    • Bhaskar

      I disagree with your statement “So? The gentleman quoted it to be a belief of the muslims; while it is the belief of about half of the “Modern” American population This belief didn’t held back America from being the most contributing nation in the modern day science.”
      – Belief systems in Saudi Arabia and USA are totally different. Unlike USA, the belief system of Saudi Arabia is violent and being strictly imposed by Ulema with support from Qur’an/Hadith/Sharia. In USA, to most Christians, religion is a private matter. But Islam is claimed as ‘complete code of life’ and is all inclusive and community based with weekly dose of dogma (& sometimes violent speech) in Friday Khutba.

  7. Kamal

    That science is not incompatible with Islam, is very popular narrative that got high currency among secular Muslims but such a linear thinking is not found to be true in the Quranic scripture. What you have said about backwardness of Muslims in science and technology, is true to the point, that we read in your terse but lucid language, and there remain hardly any scope to disagree with you. Yet the causes behind dogmatic slumber of the Muslims, who dream of golden age, are not fully remain in The Holy book and it’s orthodox interpretation of Ash’arites school of Islamic thoughts. If anything rot in Muslim society is for it’s leadership, specially their apathy to knowledge and spirit of Islam. So, if one wants to know whether science is compatible with Islam, he must be aware of politico-historical sequence of events in Muslim societies. After all, this one is good piece. Thanks.

  8. Sm Rubel

    No need to comment ….. Really good and motivational essay…. Sir A. Rahman …could We get more such writings from you to enlighten ours

  9. Jinnuraine

    The article is well written with reference to historical perspectives. My comment could be easier if I could know whether the writer Mr. A. Rahman is a believer or a non-believer. If he is a believer I would have referred some textual contexts about his concluding remarks. If he is non-believer he need not bother about Islamic code or ethics. But for both believer and non-believer I would like to ask that if during “Golden Age” Islam could run simultaneously with state function why not today? If after Ghazali there was no more science worth mentioning in Islamic countries then why not see what was there special before Ghazali era?
    If the problem belongs to the conflict of Mutazilites and Asharites and if the writer thinks that rationalism is key for todays advancement he could have referred to Mutazillites. But with what logic and evidences he has referred to institutionalisation of secularism I could not understand. I would be grateful to receive some of his reflections about my queries.
    Gratefully acknowledge the writers endeavour. I think this kind of expression will show us the route to future advancement.

    • Yamuna Zaman

      Obviously, the writer is a “volcanic secular” Muslim by name. He has cleverly been trying to potray Islam as an outdated religious philosophy. I am pretty sure, he will keep his lips absolute tight about “other religions & science connections”. He loves hitting the circumstantially easy target, Islam at this point. Also, he unnecessarily made simple things critical/complex for no intellectualreason/ground.

  10. Arif Humayun

    An excellent and through provoking piece for Muslims, especially Pakistanis, to ponder who missed the great boat for scientific accomplishments with Prof. Abdus Salam. Prof. Salam tried his very best to implant his research in particle physics in Pakistan since its inception before turning towards Europe.

    The one error in the article is referring to Prof. Salam’s religion as “Shia Ahmadi”. Ahmadi is a sect of Sunni Islam. Their only difference with other Sunni Muslims is that Ahmadi Muslims believe that the Messiah whose advent towards the end of times was foretold has come while others Sunni Muslims are still waiting for his advent.

  11. Bhaskar

    Thank you very much Dr Rahman for this excellent article which would surely open the eyes of many Muslims. I really feel sad for Dr Abdus Salam & somewhere I had written about him. Ghazali is having a very high place in the minds of Sunni scholars of even today. It is next to impossible to bring Islam out of the Ghazali box.
    I have just read a book entitled “Interviews with Muslim Women of Pakistan’, written by Chiara Angela Kovarik and published during 2005. It astonishes one to find that the Pakistani women (from different socio-economic strata) interviewed had a very rosy and all best conviction about Islam. Given this background of common Muslims, I really don’t know how Islam will evolve.
    I request you to publish the Bengali translation of this article in Mukto Mona.

  12. Faisal Pasha

    With due respect I completely disagree with the conclusions of yours.

  13. Asad

    Dear Author,
    I appreciate your research work. It needs some corrections. Dr. Abdussalam was an Ahmadi, whose founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadyani was a sunni preacher not a shia. All the Muslim scientists belonged to an area called Khurasaan (not Iranian province) but Greater “Khurassan” frequently had a much wider denotation, covering also parts of Central Asia and Afghanistan and most of them were sunnis. This fertile not only produced scientists but also produced Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam Tirmizi, Imam Ghazali, Ibn e Daud, Ibn e Maja, and they were all sunnis

  14. Billy Bob

    Acknowledging Islam as the creator of some science is ridiculous as any other religion creating science. Just because a person was a Muslim and invented something does not make the religion the cause. That would be like saying Christianity invented flying because the Wright brothers followed a version of it. the mainstream religions do not encourage science especially those that explain things different to their own teachings. It is the inbuilt nature of man that seeks the knowledge which finds science not the restraining nature of religions.

    • Dr Mudhasir Ahmad

      May peace be with you…
      Brother, Nobody claims that Islam “created” scientific achievements during the Golden age.. But it did create a stable and harmonious period in the history to help human race achieve that pinnacle of meaningful advancements.. Not all scientists and great men during those times were Muslims. There were Christians, Jews, and even others who did great wonders.. Islam provided a right environment..

      And that is what anybody expects from a religion, to provide a ripe environment for the human race to flourish.

      Do discuss about your doubts about Islam. We (you and me) have to talk with respect with each other to make this world a better place..

      • khan

        The golden age of the Jews when they were intellectually flourishing was under the Islamic period in Spain. You are quite right that religion and religious thinking provides an environment positive to research and development. If US does not encourage financially for R&D this country will also go much behind the lines in 50 years.

  15. Sumit Mazumdar

    Great article – Kudos! Probably requires courage to write this in today’s world.

    One other Muslim physicist should be added to Rahman’s list:
    Ibn al-Haytham (also referred to as Alhazen), who lived in the 10th-11th century, was from Basra and had spent considerable amount of time in Al-Azhar Univesity. Al-Haytham is most definitely the father of modern optics – centuries before Newton he had figured out that we see objects becuse light reflected by them hits the retina of our eyes (the older interpretation would amount to “photons” from our eyes hitting the object). Al Haytham thus corrected centuries old wrong theories of Greeks such as Ptolemy. Al-Haytham is also credited to be the first person (among the first) who developed the scientific method (hypothesize, experiment, modify/correct hypothesis, repeat). He wrote a “book of optics” (Kitab al-Manazir) that is still admired by historians of physics. He also made significant advances with the pinhole camera (The word camera some say has Arabic origin – “quamra(h)” – meaning room of course!)

    Professor Salam’s grave had the epitaph “First Muslim Nobel Laureate”. The word “Muslim” was removed on the orders of a local magistrate.

    Not being raised a Muslim, I did have a question though. In Rahman’s article all the Muslim scientists (who had either spent considerable time in Basra, or were influenced by Basra’s scientific tradition) are declared to be Shias.
    Is this true? Iran (which had always had influence on what is today’s southern Iraq), to my knowledge became Shia only in the 15th century.

    Finally, there is no doubt that Ghazali has had a disastrous influence. I loved the story of the Egyptian translator. Pakistan has dozens of unfortunate people in its prisons – charge against them (usually minority Christians) is blasphemy.

  16. Harry

    Robert R. Reilly wrote a book call “The Closing of the Muslim Mind
    How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis”. It dealt with the philosophical battle that occurred and also the consequences from the lose of reason. When reason goes out the window than any crazy idea can gain footholds unfortunately.

  17. Ali

    I am sorry to say but Islamic teaching does not say Allah created the Earth , the sun , the moon and everything 10,000 years ago. Evolution in Islam is not considered random but is part of a very intelligent design created by the creator. The question of human evolution is a different subject all together.The reason Muslims have gone backwards is that they did not accept the printing press when it was invented. The Muslims lagged three hundred years to catch on to using the printing press. Islam itself will not destroy endeavors to scientific developments rather wrong understanding of Islam will cause the problem of understanding science.

  18. Golam Arshad

    My distinguish Friend: Western connotations of Secularism definitely negated by Muslim in the fold of Islam.A Muslim taking oath in Kalima can never be secular. A Muslim armed with Knowledge expressed in Good Manners, prescribing in Adab, makes a Muslim enlightened in the Lighted Path taught by Al Quran. A Muslim is thoroughly conservative, open to modernism scanned in moral disposition, making A Muslim Smart, a shinning Character. Moral dispensation, expressed in Knowledge cutting Evil that harms individual. This is the Muslim way of Universal Moderation.Not Secularism as defined and indexed by Western mollifications.

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