Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Seeing Dr Abdus Salam's 'Theism' In a Broader Canvas and Context

By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam 24 May 2022 Religious Orthodoxy and the Spirit of Intolerance Are Two of the Major Factors Responsible For Killing the Once Flourishing Enterprise of Science in Islam Main Points: 1. Why should a Muslim, a Sunni at that, have any truck with Salam's faith or no-faith? 2. Abdus Salam is a non-Muslim in Pakistan and to most of the Sunnis, he's a heretic. 3. Go beyond your religiocentric vision and see good in all things made by nature. ----- Mohammad Abdus Salam was a Pakistani theoretical physicist and a Nobel Prize laureate ----- Many years ago, Pakistani physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy, well-known for his staunchly secularist views, asked the Nobel laureate Dr Abdus Salam to write the preface for his book Islam and Science: Coexistence and Conflict, he expected his more devout colleague to decline. Salam stunned Hoodbhoy by agreeing and beginning his preface by stating, “I completely agree with him that religious orthodoxy and the spirit of intolerance are two of the major factors responsible for killing the once flourishing enterprise of Science in Islam.” The preface goes on with Salam joining Hoodbhoy in opposing the “Islamic Science” movement: “I agree with the statement that there is only one universal Science; that its problems and modalities are international and that there is no such thing as ‘Islamic Science’ just as there is no ‘Hindu Science,’ no ‘Jewish Science,’ no ‘Confucian Science,’ nor ‘Christian Science." Austin Dacey's above-mentioned excerpts from 'Unification of Forces' puts the legendary physicist Dr Salam's 'religiosity' in perspective. It's not his religiosity or non-religiosity that should matter to an obstinate Muslim believer or a non-Muslim non-believer. 'Faith is a contextualised perception,' wrote the Brazilian philosopher and popular writer Paulo Coelho. And remember, seeing is not always believing. When I met Khuswant Singh at his residence in Sujan Singh Park in Delhi in 2011, I asked him off the record whether the world-renowned scientist was really a profound believer. En passant, Khuswant was one of the first journalists in India who interviewed Salam after he got the Nobel in 1979. He (Khuswant Singh) also carried a long article in his long-defunct magazine, ' New Delhi.' Khuswant, himself an agnostic, told me that it was his firm belief that Dr Salam's religiosity was a very fine gesture on behalf of his beleaguered Ahmadiyya community, persecuted by Sunnis, across the world, esp. back home (Pakistan). Dr Salam wanted to send across the message of being a deeply religious person so that his perceived community of Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan got a modicum of respectability (and also safety) because Qadiyanis or Ahmadiyyas are considered to be heretics, atheists and non-Muslims. Didn't Gabriel Marquez say so tellingly, " Every individual has three personalities: Public, Private and SECRET. A Pakistani scholar told me that Javed Iqbal (son of Dr Muhammad Iqbal), who was a friend and coeval of Dr Salam, subtly suggested that he (Salam) should retain his (devout) religious identity for the sake of his community. Mind you, Iqbal's family had a natural inclination towards the Ahmadiyya sect and Iqbal always supported the Qadiyanis. Though, it could be debatable, to the point of being apocryphal. Moreover, when the ever-grateful Nobel laureate visited Calcutta on January 19, 1981 to pay his respects to Professor Anilendra Ganguly, who taught him Mathematics at Sanatan Dharma College in Lahore, a lady journalist from the now defunct Bangla broadsheet Jugantar (Bangla edition of The Amrita Bazar Patrika) asked his apercus on god, religion and personal belief, the mild-mannered scientist just smiled. Here I reiterate, my objective is not projecting him as a theist or atheist. This is a stupid debate that has no end. Neither a theist will get a Nobel for proving Salam to be a believer nor an atheist will get anything if he can prove that the man had no faith and no belief. Moreover, why should a Muslim, a Sunni at that, have any truck with Salam's faith or no-faith? He's a non-Muslim in Pakistan and to most of the Sunnis, he's a heretic. That's it. What matters is his trenchant comment upon the misnomer: Islamic Science. Science is science. It's a universal concept and the legacy of mankind, not the prerogative of any specific religion, race or community. Now the majoritarian in India are emulating the hidebound Muslims in claiming that their ancient texts have plastic surgery, space science and rockets. Rubbish! It's time to drop such sectarian nomenclature and surge ahead. Science belongs to mankind, regardless of religious stripes. When Arabs were giving Astronomy, Cipher, Theorems (sorry, Newton cannot be called the Father of Differential Calculus), the camera obscura, the elephant clock, Al-Idrisi's world map, Al-Zahrawi's surgical instruments (scalpel is still used) and even decibel system (though it's still uncertain) to the world, Aryabhatta was giving Sinusoidal functions, solution of quadratic equations and the Value of Pai, Diameter of Earth, among others. Greeks gave Geometry, culminating in Euclid's Elements, the odometer, the alarm clock and water mill, Pythagoras, Archimedes etc. to the world. Ancient Babylonians and Egyptians also contributed significantly. Look at the symmetry of Pyramids, esp, the Giza Pyramids, built aeons ago. So, scientific development is a concerted endeavour which has a cumulative outcome. Go beyond your religiocentric vision and see good in all things made by nature. That'll be the epitome of faith and epicentre of man's religiosity without which most of the humans cannot survive. ---- An occasional columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to world's premier publications in several languages including Persian. URL: https://newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/abdus-salam-theism-canvas-context/d/127077 New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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