Thursday, November 24, 2022

Muslim Societies Need a Renaissance a la Europe

By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef, New Age Islam 24 November 2022 Muslims Do Not Rely On The Quran As A Timeless Rule Of Conduct Except In Lip Service. Main Points: 1. Contrary to what spiritual teachings and their essence should be, Muslims' new religious awakening has not led to their leading lives and acting in ways that are beneficial, productive, kind, and humane. 2. Religious fanatics' excessive religiosity, which is frequently bordering on abnormal levels, has led to their unfavourable attitudes and intolerance toward other faith communities as well as frequently toward their own fellow co-religionists who adhere to other alternative schools of thought 3. This alleged religious awakening fails to inspire and motivate the rank and file of Muslims to carry the scientific rejuvenation torch throughout the populace. In order to revive, enrich, enhance, and develop a scientific outlook in Muslims, I believe they need a comprehensive renaissance. ------- Our Ulama curse the West day in and day out; yet, the fact remains that without the West Islamic and Arabic awakening was also not possible. This awakening began in Egypt after Napoleon Bonaparte attacked and conquered the country in 1798. His invasion planted the initial seed and provided the incentive for reform measures as he brought a printing press and several specialists with him. Soon Napoleon's adversaries, the English, were successful in forcing the French to leave Egyptian territory, aiding the Ottomans in taking back Egypt from them. The Nahza Arabia ( نهضة عربية) or Arabic revival initiative, which Mohammad Ali (1805), the satrap of Egypt from the Turkish Caliphate, started in the early 19th century to revive Arabic literature and uplift Arab people by sending a few brilliant students to Paris to study there on the government's expenses was found to be very limited in its objectives after the French withdrawal. Nevertheless it had a significant impact on Arab life at the time. All the well-known and progressive Arab writers and philosophers, such as Rifaah Tahtawi, Mohammad Abduhu, Taha Hussain, Ahmad Ameen, Kurd Ali, Shakeeb Arsalan and Nagib Mehfooz et al were born in the wake of Mohammad Ali's reforms and resetting things. In the twentieth century, there were three major trends in the Islamic world. Their waves and effects reached Muslim minority counters too. Courtesy different Muslim government's generous help and targeted financial support, more specifically the huge Saudi Salafists', to Ulema and traditional scholastic circles, many conventional sciences such as Quranic sciences, Hadees legacy, and Fiqh canonical legacy have flourished the world over. Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Damascus, Egypt, Qatar, and Bahrain etc have become a flourishing centre for publishing new books. Rich Encyclopaedias have been printed, indexes have been prepared along with a rush of forming the worldwide Islamic Fiqh academies and councils with huge budgets and a great deal of literature, holding seminars and symposia on old and rather new subjects become a norm. Thousands of hitherto untouched Islamic manuscripts have been connotated, edited, and printed. 2- Secondly there was a push for the so-called Islamisation of knowledge project. (please see my article: Where Has The Ghost Of The Islamisation Of Knowledge Gone? Under this considerable budgeting scheme, studies were conducted on Islamic finance and banking and also on Islamic social thought, thanks to the major efforts of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Washington, DC. For that purpose, several institutions have been set up, and a good deal of literature has been published on these subjects. Awards were given to some colleges. Universities were also established to experiment with these ideas with hundreds of conferences and seminars and heated debates around these issues. 3- The third trend is Islamic preaching movements: among them are many hues and shades. Some are vehement protagonists of political Islam such as Jamaat-e-Islami in the subcontinent and Muslim brotherhood in the Middle East and their offshoots. Some are puritanical as Salafist, and some are Sufi-oriented and peaceful preaching organizations enjoying a substantial global following such as Tablighi Jamaat. The darker side of Political Islam and Salafist movements is the upsurge of a new kind of violent, obscurantist, aggressive and militant version of Islam best exemplified in the Taliban of Afghanistan and the notorious ISIS and Al-Qaeda. On the Educational front, to me, the Sir Syed movement is miserably defeated by the connivance of Ulama, preachers, Islamists, and unfortunately by Sir Syed's own inheritors, who have proven incompetent to bring forth the great Syed's ideas on religious reform and promote rational thinking. Now it is replaced by madrasas being mushroomed everywhere with centuries-old Dars e Nizamia, based on different Masalik (schools of thought) in Fiqh and also in theology, thus upholding and sustaining sectarian theologies and closing all the doors of fresh air and rethinking, their students running in millions around the globe. Now, if we look back with hindsight at all these vast efforts and their net result, we find that in Muslim societies today, sectarian violence on the pretention of Takfeer (ex-communication) is much higher, as you can see in the case of Syria, Iraq, Pakistan where blood-shedding on sectarian grounds is a norm. Faisal Foundation in Saudi Arabia was built by the late king Faisal to encourage research and discoveries in human knowledge. It Gives Faisal Awards yearly to distinguished writers, scholars, and innovators. You will be taken aback to know that so far, Muslim scholars and intellectuals have only received the Faisal prize in areas regarding Islamic services, Arabic Studies, Islamic Finance, Hadeeth, Fiqh, etc. Every time awards in medicine, innovation, and new scientific discoveries go to a scientist or researcher from the "damned" West! I am not talking about Noble Prize; Faisal Award is purely a prize created by Muslims. This speaks volumes about the pathetic situations of Muslims and their apathy towards science and modern knowledge. Second, there seems to be a rise in phoney and pseudo-religious among the Muslim populace. For instance, despite the fact that mosques are packed with people offering prayers, diseases, superstitions, illiteracy, and other ills continue to exist. There are religious preachers throughout Muslim nations with YouTube accounts and a sizable following, including ones who speak fluent English in the West. The majority of them are immigrants from the Middle East or the Indian subcontinent, but all of them, with the exception of a few, are spreading absurd beliefs among their listeners in the name of Islam. This fuels sectarian conflict and creates additional splinters in society because of their limited outlook, parochial thinking, biased education, and limited orientation. After listening to a number of these preachers, I discovered that they all shared a dislike of the West and Western civilization. This is another thing that most of them are propagating their ideas via using Western scientific tools and modern technology, and also enjoy in their personal life all the facilities provided and invented by science! Except for mindless recitation in the hopes of receiving large blessings from God, which I don't believe will happen, and memorising it in the hopes of making a meagre living, the Quran does not occupy a central place in the lives of Muslims in general. So, they do not rely on the Quran as a timeless rule of conduct except in lip service. Muslims appear to be a fairly marginalised group in terms of global economic activity, contributing the smallest amount to global production. There aren't many well-known Muslims who are successful businessmen, international traders, or market catchers, except of a few wealthy Arab princes. No Muslim university is ranked among the top 10 in the field of education. If you look at any area of science and technology, you won't find any notable contributions from the Muslim Ummah. In contrast little in certain ways, Israel is technologically far ahead of the US, let alone any other nation or, for that matter, a Muslim nation. No invention, no patent, or noteworthy piece of scientific research referenced in the global reference index supports the assertion that Muslims have been living on outside sources for the previous millennium. All we have is inflated assertions of prior accomplishments in many fields of study. What can we infer from this? The fact that Ulama, scholars, and intellectuals are preoccupied with pointless pursuits tells eloquently about the sad apathy of the Muslim masses toward science and toward the rest of the world as well. For instance, in the proclamation of the supposedly impending arrival of the Mahdi, who would go away with their maladies and miseries and afflictions. It is a widely accepted religious concept among Sunni and Shia alike. A fresh, thorough renaissance is desperately needed for the awakening of Muslim community as a whole. Because a renaissance is required to rekindle the spirit that Islam once inspired in Arabs towards reason, new methods of inquiry and investigation, and the discovery of new vistas of knowledge. The so-called صحوة اسلامية or Islamic awakening, the influx of people into mosques, the enormous Naat (praise of the Prophet) industry, the high celebration of Eid Meelad un Nabi, (prophet’s birth celebration) and all of these things are good, yet they are hurting the actual cause of enlightenment in Muslims. It is strange that an anti-intellectual movement exists in some Muslim nations like Pakistan and Iran in addition to the foolish, stupid, and fraudulent anti-science preaching of Ulama. This is said to be a traditionalist school of thought and is fuelled by a French convert Rene Ganu’s odd and ludicrous idea. Additionally, their effects are escalated to some Western universities too. They preach all the time that modern science is totally unIslamic, unethical, and inhuman. So, it must be resisted at all costs, particularly in Muslim societies. To encounter this blatant propaganda by traditionalists and negativity-feeding scholars, journalists, and Islamists, Muslims need throughout the world a powerful intellectual movement to wage a jihad against the forces of fundamentalism and obscurantism mentioned above on the one hand, and on the other to launch vehemently a strong movement to promote science literacy, philosophical studies and a rational temperament among Muslim masses as Sir Syed once did to advance modern science among Muslims, especially among Indian Muslims. It is essential to restore the former intellectual splendour of Muslims, their lost scientific legacy, and to promote critical philosophical inquiry, revitalise new hermeneutics, and rigorously raise the scientific temperament in future generations. The first stage in laying the foundation for a secular renaissance will be to establish centres of study for science like Baitul Hikmat or the Wisdom House founded by Al-Mamoon in Baghdad, in order to develop a culture similar to that produced by him. It is an urgent requirement right now. I wish to refer to such a brilliant plan as a thorough revival for Muslim societies. This should be comprehensive, coherent, and thorough, without discounting religion and the crucial role it has played, and still playing, in the lives of the masses throughout history. To reconcile religion and science, there should be a strong call, comparable to those made by Mohammad Abduhu, Iqbal, Fazlur Rehman, Waheeduddin Kahn, and others. For such an end, religion may indeed be an energising resource, if understood correctly. ------ A regular columnist for New Age Islam, Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef is a Research Associate with the Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India, AMU Aligarh. URL: 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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