2003 Selected Contents
The June 2003 issue of Research News & Opportunities, a publication funded by the John Templeton Foundation, contains a picture of an innocent-looking Palestinian girl, with the following caption: “A Palestinian girl wears a suicide bomber belt during a Hamas rally in southern Lebanon in September. Hamas, an Islamic organization, frequently uses violence to draw attention to its cause.” The same issue contains an editorial by Karl Giberson, the editor of the periodical, entitled, “But words can never hurt you…”. This editorial affirms the infamous Axis of Evil doctrine of George Bush and approves the invasion of Iraq on very flimsy grounds. In the following “An open letter to the editor of Research News & Opportunities”, Abdullah bin Abdullah, an Iraqi retired professor now living in England, draws attention to what he calls “the sinister designs of the John Templeton Foundation through publications and institutions supported by the Foundation”. Professor Abdullah bin Abdullah insists that the views expressed in this letter are his own and not of the Iraqi people who are now “the most devastated people on earth” because of “infinite love poured over us by the likes of JTF in support of the imperial designs of the neoconservatives who now rule the United States of America”.
The letter is being reproduced here in its totality.
Dear Mr. Giberson,
As I write these lines, US military men are ravaging my country, corporate America is obtaining contracts worth billions of dollars which would dry up the resources of my ravaged country and hundreds of men, women and children are being taken to detention centers set up by your army to humiliate, torture and imprison my people.
You must know all of this because the words of your editorial, “But words can never hurt you…” not only hurt, they defile all moral codes ever known to humanity. They are either the product of a diseased mind or that of a self-deluded individual. I know you work for a foundation whose very raison d’etre is to support the neo-conservatives who now rule the United States of America and who wish to extend their rule to the rest of the world but I hope you would reconsider your situation and gain some self-respect by a reconsideration of your situation; after all, you are a human being who is going to stand in front of his Lord on a day when nothing but truth will be the criteria for decisions.
You write: “I must confess that I originally thought Bush’s “Axis of Evil” was an entirely inappropriate bit of political posturing. But then pictures of Iraqis with severed ears and hands began to appear in the news. Stories of torture emerged, some of it sadistic and twisted. Images of grand opulence in the midst of poverty made it clear just how little Iraq’s leaders cared for anyone except themselves. Somehow rhetoric about being “in violation of the U.N. resolutions” seemed woefully inadequate.”
As an Iraqi who has suffered at the hands of a dictator who knew no limits of barbarity, I need not say anything to justify his misrule. But let me ask you a few questions:
1. There are a lot of potentates around the world, misusing their power, committing acts of violence against their own citizens and plundering national wealth. However, international law dictates that the responsibility of putting their house in order rests with the people of these countries. It is an accepted international norm, upon which the whole edifice of the United Nations and the rest of the international bodies is established. How can you use this flimsy argument in your editorial to justify a brutal invasion?
2. Iraq has not been invaded for the reasons you mention; the prime reason given to the world for the invasion of Iraq was that it possesses weapons of mass destruction and that its dictator is a threat to the United States. Now, you know as well as any other person who has an iota of reason left in his being that the impoverished, sanctioned and bombed out remains of the dictatorial rule in Iraq posed no danger to anyone, least of all to the military might of the United States of America which has the technological capability as well as the inhumanity to bomb any country back to the stone age without a single anti-air missile ever reaching the heights from where B-52 bombers unload their vile cargo. You know this very well. How can you, then, accept such despicable lies and support them?
3. You talk about the religious language and concepts and claim to take them seriously. You call for courage to speak out and call a spade a spade. But, behind this façade, what you are actually doing is mustering up supporting for an evil regime whose goal is to impose its writ on the rest of the world and plunder resources belonging to other people. You live in a country where truth has been wiped out from public space. Let me just provide you a piece of truth, coming from none other than one of the most respected journalists in the world and direct from Iraq. Here is what Robert Fisk says in his May 30, 2003 interview with Pacifica:
“Then there's the confetti of daily
newspapers appearing on the pavements of Baghdad which tell their
readers of America's business earnings from this war. Iraq's airports
are for auction, management of the port of Umm Qasr has been grabbed for
$ 8.4m (pounds 5m) by a US company, one of whose lobbyists just happens
to have been President George Bush's deputy assistant when he was
governor of Texas. Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old
company, has major contracts to extinguish oil fires in Iraq, build US
bases in Kuwait and transport British tanks. The most likely giant to
hoover up the reconstruction contracts in Iraq is the Bechtel
corporation whose senior vice president, retired general Jack Sheehan,
serves on President Bush's defence policy board. This is the same
Bechtel which - according to Iraq's pre-war arms submission to the UN,
which Washington quickly censored - once helped Saddam build a plant for
manufacturing ethylene, which can be used in the making of mustard gas.
On the board of Bechtel sits former secretary of state George Schultz,
who again just happens to be chairman of the advisory board of the
Committee for the Liberation of Iraq which has, of course, close links
to the White House. Iraqi reconstruction is likely to cost $ 100bn which
- and this is the beauty of it - will be paid for by the Iraqis from
their own future oil revenues, which in turn will benefit the US oil
4. Mr. Giberson, your periodical is a fine example of intellectual terrorism. Its pages are replete with falsehood, logical lapses, cowardly formulations of support for the evil empire which a great scholar of Islam had rightly called the great satan. You have printed the picture of an innocent looking Palestinian girl who does not seem to be more than 14 years of age. You de-contextualize the heroic struggle of Palestinian people against an organized genocide. You have the heart to rudely dabble in a matter that requires utmost sensitivity and that pertains to a people who are being tortured, killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes on a daily basis through the use of weapons provided by your country. Have you ever looked at a map of Palestine, Mr. Giberson? Have you seen how the illegal settlements keep popping up like abscesses? Have you ever read a single piece of truth about Palestine? Has your heart ever felt the pain of being orphaned at the young age of 8 because the Apache helicopters supplied by your government and flown by US-trained mercenaries have killed your parents in front of your eyes? No, you have never, I can guess from the false smile you wear.
5. Let me close, Mr. Giberson, by asking you a final question. Assume an army comes and occupies your country. Would you resist? Would your men and women, boys and girls stand up and fight the tanks and bulldozers and helicopters with all they possess or would you offer your other cheek to the occupiers? At least, have a heart, if you cannot have a conscience.
Abdullah bin Abdullah
Your Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom Of Jordan, Distinguished Scholars, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
1. It is indeed a great pleasure and honour for me on behalf of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), to welcome you who have journeyed from all over the world to gather in conference with us here to celebrate the lasting legacy of this brilliant star in the firmament of Islamic thought, one who is among the greatest in the galaxy of Muslim luminaries.
2. He was a man gifted with wisdom and adorned with authentic knowledge. The illumination radiating from his sagacious intellect shed the light that separated and distinguished the true from the false, the real from the illusory, the genuine from the counterfeit. His contributions in the spiritual and intellectual domains of religion, in the realms of Islamic thought and civilization as a whole, are of such magnitude as to be recognized and acknowledged by a knowing and grateful Community throughout the ages. He lived at a time of great religious and intellectual upheaval brought about by the challenges of an alien worldview surreptitiously introduced into Muslim thought and belief by Muslim philosophers and their followers, as well as by religious deviationists of many sorts. Ours is also a time fraught with similar challenges posed by the secular modern Western philosophy and science, its technology and ideology which seek to encroach on our values, our modes of conduct, our thought and belief, our way of life, in order to bring about radical changes congenial to the secular worldview. Even though our present predicament is more serious, widespread and profoundly urgent in nature than that encountered by al-GhazÂali in his time, yet the lesson he taught and the remedy he indicated are eminently relevant.
3. The rise of the modernist movement, whose leaders were from among the ‘ulama’ of less authoritative worth, heralded not so much the emergence of a Muslim religious and intellectual awakening and sobriety; it marked rather the beginnings of a widespread and systematic undermining of past scholarship and its intellectual and religious authority and leadership, leaving us to inherit today a legacy of cultural, intellectual and religious confusion. They and their imitators and followers among traditionalist ‘ulama’, and scholars and intellectuals who derive inspiration mainly from the West, are responsible for what I have called the disintegration of adab, which is the effect of the corruption of the knowledge of IslÂm and the worldview projected by it, and for the emergence in our midst of false leaders in all fields due to the loss of the capacity and ability to recognize and acknowledge authentic authority. Because of the intellectual anarchy that characterizes this situation, the common people become determiners of intellectual decisions and are raised to the level of authority on matters of knowledge. Authentic definitions become undone and in their stead we are left with vagueness and contradictions. The inability to define; to identify and isolate problems; to provide for right solutions; the creation of pseudo-problems; the reduction of problems to mere political, socio-economic and legal factors become evident. Pretenders abound, effecting great mischief by debasing values, imposing upon the ignorant, and encouraging the rise of mediocrity. It is not surprising if such a situation provides a fertile breeding ground for the emergence of deviationists and extremists of many kinds who make ignorance their capital.
4. It is with the rise of oriental studies aligned to colonial ideology that we first find al-GhazÂali being insinuated as the efficient cause of Muslim intellectual stagnancy that gradually set in over the centuries after he dealt a fatal blow to Greek philosophy. We can understand their antipathy towards al-GhazÂali seeing that in Western cultural history every chapter, be it of logic, of science, of art, of politics and even of theology begins with the Greeks. Greek philosophy is the very acme of all thought, the consummate personification of reason itself! Western religious and orientalist thought, their scholarship and even their science have always laboured against the Christian background of the problem of God: the problem of the discord between revelation and reason, which is not a problem in IslÂm. Their claim that everything philosophical in IslÂm is taken from the Greeks is far-fetched and must be rejected. They do not see that many fundamental ideas in Greek philosophy itself were taken by their philosophers from revealed religion or revelation, or to use ibn Rushd’s words –something resembling revelation”; these ideas did not originate from their intellects or from reason alone without the aid of revelation. This is why Muslim philosophers, theologians and metaphysicians did not reject everything Greek in their thought, for a great many things the Greek philosophers said in metaphysical, ethical and political matters they also found already expressed in the Qur’Ân. Al-KindŚ’s remark in the book addressed to al-Mu‘ta?im that he wanted to complete what the Greek philosophers did not fully express points to the fact that the Muslim thinkers did not look upon the Greek philosophers from the position of imitators; on the contrary, even though they respected them for their rational endeavour and achievements, they at the same time saw their errors and inadequacy in arriving at knowledge about the ultimate nature of reality through the effort of reason alone. In fact the failure of the rational endeavour of Greek philosophy to arrive at truth and certainty in knowledge about the ultimate nature of reality is proof enough for those with understanding that reason alone without the aid of revelation cannot attain to such knowledge. It ought to be clear that al-GhazÂali’s attack on the philosophers, both the Greek and the Muslim, was not aimed at philosophy as such, that is as ?ikmah, because ?ikmah as revealed in the Qur’Ân is God’s gift; and ?ikmah is what I think ibn Rushd meant when he referred to –something resembling revelation” in his Fa?l al-MaqÂl. The application of reason with wisdom, not only in religion but in philosophy and the sciences is commendable. It is significant to note that in the Qur’Ân the major Prophets were not only given the Book, that is al-kitÂb, but also the Wisdom, that is al-?ikmah, which I think explains our accord between revelation and reason. What al-GhazÂali attacked was the metaphysical and religious theories of the Greek philosophers, and their belief and the claim of the Muslim philosophers with regard to the primacy of the intellect as the sole guide to knowledge of the ultimate reality.
5. But the modernist Muslim thinkers and their followers and those of like mind became captive to the subtle deception of orientalist scholarship and echoed their insinuations, and they blamed al-GhazÂali for the degeneration of Muslim thought and action even to this day. They include not only Arabs, Turks and Persians, but other thinkers from the Indian subcontinent notably Iqbal who was very much influenced by Western Christian problems of religion and philosophy and confused them with those of IslÂm and the Muslims. They set ibn Taymiyyah up as the relevant leader to emulate and reflected in their thought and action the same contentiousness and contradictions. They failed to see that if al-Ghazali had not existed it would have been impossible for ibn Taymiyyah to engage the Greek philosophers and confront the Muslim philosophers, for a great deal of what the Hanbalite knew of logic and effective methodology was derived from the lesson taught and demonstrated by al-GhazÂali. It was in fact ibn Taymiyyah who lashed at logic, denounced definition, stifled syllogism, attacked analogical reasoning, so that if we are looking for someone to blame for the degeneration of Muslim thought and action - although there are other causes for that - then surely ibn Taymiyyah’s influence is a major cause of our present intellectual confusion. That is why the inability to define; to identify and isolate problems; to provide for right solutions; the creation of pseudo-problems; the reduction of problems to mere political, socio-economic and legal factors become evident today. Ibn Taymiyyah’s influence is also evident in the reduction of knowledge and correct perception of IslÂm and the worldview projected by it to merely its ritual and legal aspects. In this way the meaning of ‘ibÂdah has become restricted because the fundamental knowledge obligatory for all Muslims, that is the farÇ ‘ayn, has been reduced to its bare ritual and legal essentials and made static in fixity at the level of immaturity. The intellectual and cognitive aspects of the farÇ ‘ayn, that render right balance in ‘ibÂdah which requires them in order to reach full maturity, have been neglected. The restriction of the meaning of ‘amal or activity to its physical aspects follows and leads to the kind of activism that is productive of social, political and legal unrest and narrow-mindedness. The modernists and their followers must see that the activism urged in the activity of ‘ibÂdah is not merely a physical one but also, in addition to that, an intellectual one. The intellectual activism I mean is not of the modernist kind, and is not to be confused with Iqbal’s notion of the search for rational foundations in IslÂm. The need for a rational foundation in religion was made to be felt by intellectually westernized modernists who unwittingly got themselves involved in the Western scholastic and intellectual context of problems related to their religion. Religion according to us is not, on its doctrinal side, merely –a system of general truths” as defined by Iqbal echoing Whitehead and later adopted by Fazlur Rahman; a system of general truths whose specifics –must not remain unsettled”. That was Whitehead’s understanding of what religion is based solely on his experience and reflection of his own religion. There is no reason why such a ‘definition’ of religion must be applied to IslÂm. Moreover, IslÂm does not need, on its doctrinal side, a rational foundation because a rational foundation is already built into the very foundation of the religion and the worldview it projects.
6. Then again, encouraged by charges of inconsistency and even contradictions in al-GhazÂali by ibn Rushd followed by ibn Taymiyyah, orientalist scholars and their modernist disciples among whom was the late Fazlur Rahman have made al-GhazÂali out to be some sort of scholastic enigma. Their failure to assign to him a definite place in their minds have made them brand him as a difficult and even deceptive thinker. Was he really a theologian masquerading as a philosopher?, was he Ash‘arite and yet a —äfŚ at the same time? - and so they insisted on forcing their either/or attitude on one who defied such neat compartmentalization. Yet their unfair charges of inconsistency and contradictions have never been conclusively proven nor demonstrated to be true! Why should a man like al-GhazÂali not be philosopher, theologian, Ash‘arite and —äfŚ at the same time without being inconsistent or being involved in contradictions? Indeed to Muslims generally al-GhazÂali is the embodiment of a synthesis of religion and philosophy, a synthesis whose great and beneficial value is acknowledged by the various intellectual levels of the Community. But to those who preoccupy themselves with philological exercises, textual criticisms, incessant research to determine conceptual origins, they only speak to themselves among themselves in their academic circles, and are oblivious or incapable of relating GhazÂali’s ideas to the solution of modern problems. One is reminded of the story of the elephant and the four blind pundits. Since they could not see with their eyes they had to grope with their hands to feel and describe to their imagination the creature that stood before them. One stroked its leg and declared: –This creature is a pillar;” –No!,” said another who grasped its twisting trunk: –It is a big snake;” the third disagreed as he groped its broad back saying: –It is a throne;” –You are all in error,” the last one contended feeling the huge ear: –It is indeed a carpet!”. Afterwards they each wrote learned books disputing the other and affirming their own imaginary vision of the creature to be the true one.
7. The problem of the corruption of knowledge has come about due to our own state of confusion as well as influences coming from the philosophy, science, and ideology of modern Western culture and civilization. Intellectual confusion emerged as a result of changes and restriction in the meaning of key terms that project the worldview derived from Revelation. The repercussions arising from this intellectual confusion manifest themselves in moral and cultural dislocation, which is symptomatic of the degeneration of religious knowledge, faith, and values. The changes and restriction in the meaning of such key terms occur due to the spread of secularization as a philosophical program which holds sway over hearts and minds enmeshed in the crisis of truth and the crisis of identity. These crises, in turn, have become actualized as a result of a secularized system of education that causes deviations, if not severance, from historical roots that have been firmly established by our wise and illustrious predecessors upon foundations vitalized by religion. One must see that the kind of problem confronting us is of such a profound nature as to embrace all the fundamental elements of our worldview that cannot simply be resolved by groping in the labyrinths of legalism and struggling in the socio-political arena of activism which throbs in the veins of Muslim modernism.
8. A most important and original idea of al-GhazÂali that orientalist and Muslim scholars have not given the attention it deserves, due to the fact that they have failed to discover it and to realize its novelty and its great significance for our time, is the idea of how semantic change and restriction in the Islamic key terms pertaining to knowledge in a science that is considered as praiseworthy renders the science to become blameworthy; and this will ultimately bring about confusion and corruption in knowledge. This is because the key terms in the basic vocabulary of the Islamic language serve a conceptual network of interrelated fields of meaning which ultimately project in the Muslim mind the worldview they are meant to describe. Al-GhazÂali pointed out in the I?yÂ’ that even in his time key terms such as fiqh, ‘ilm, taw?Śd, dhikr, and ?ikmah have been tampered with by change and restriction in their original and authentic meanings. Similarly in the TahÂfut he demonstrated that the philosophers have changed the original and authentic meaning of the important concepts conveyed by the terms fi‘l and fÂ‘il to suit their own ideas which contradict the teachings of IslÂm with respect to the nature of God and of creation. We see that if even a few of Islamic key terms were changed or restricted in their meanings, or were made to convey meanings which are not authentic and authoritative - by which I mean whose intentions no longer reflect those correctly understood by the early Muslims - then this would inevitably create confusion and error in the minds of Muslims and disrupt intellectual and spiritual unity among them. Moreover, it would render sciences once considered praiseworthy to become blameworthy. Unity has two aspects: the outward, external unity manifested in society as communal and national solidarity; and the inward, internal unity of ideas and mind revealed in intellectual and spiritual coherence that encompasses realms beyond communal and national boundaries. Understanding pertains to the second aspect, which is fundamental to the realization of the first. The coherence of this second aspect depends upon the soundness and integrity of concepts in language, the instrument of reason which influences its users. If the soundness and integrity of concepts in language is confused, then this is due to a confusion in worldview caused by the corruption of knowledge. I am not here suggesting something that may be construed as not allowing language to develop, to unfold itself according to its potential powers of tracing the rich tapestry of life as it unfolds, to evolve with ideas as they evolve, to grasp reality-truth as it manifests itself in the fleeting passage of time. I am only suggesting, deriving from the lesson al-GhazÂali taught, that the basic vocabulary in the Islamic language can only develop from its roots, and not severed from them, nor can they develop from roots stunted in restriction. Secular and materialistic value systems have their initial locus in minds, then they are translated into linguistic symbols, and afterwards become manifest in the external world first in urban areas whence they spread like a raging contagion to the rural masses. The problem related to language and semantic change is not simply a matter of language as such, but a matter of worldview. Semantic confusion as a result of misapplication of terms denoting key concepts in the Islamic basic vocabulary does adversely affect Muslim perception of the worldview of IslÂm which is projected by both al-kitÂb wa al-?ikmah.
9. In the languages of Muslim peoples including Arabic, there is a basic vocabulary consisting of key terms which govern the interpretation of the Islamic vision of reality and truth and which project in the Muslim mind the worldview of IslÂm in correct perspective. Because the words that comprise this basic vocabulary have their origins in the Qur’Ân and in the Prophetic Traditions, these words are naturally in Arabic and are deployed uniformly in all Muslim languages reflecting the intellectual and spiritual unity of Muslims throughout the world. This basic vocabulary is composed of key terms denoting important concepts related to one another meaningfully and altogether determining the conceptual structure of reality and existence projected by them in conformity with the Qur’Ân. Language reflects ontology. Introducing key concepts foreign to a language involves not merely the translating of words, but more profoundly the translating of symbolic forms belonging to the super system of a foreign worldview not compatible with the worldview projected by the language into which such concepts are introduced. Those responsible for introducing them and advocating their currency are the scholars, academics, journalists, critics, politicians and amateurs not firmly grounded upon knowledge of the essentials of religion and its vision of reality and truth. One of the main causes for the emergence of intellectual confusion and anarchy is the changes and restrictions which they have effected in the meanings of key terms that project the worldview of IslÂm which is derived from Revelation.
10. But the modernist thinkers and their immediate disciples and later followers which include some traditionalists ignored authentic and authoritative usage of Quranic Arabic and violated its etymological principles in order to introduce foreign meanings in the key terms involving changes and restrictions which run counter to their original intentions and which displace their purpose in the conceptual structure of the worldview of IslÂm. Respecting interpretation of the Qur’Ân, from which a new form of Arabic is derived, they have consistently advocated hermeneutic methods whose character depended largely upon learned conjecture and subjective speculation and the notion of historical relativism. They are unaware that Muslims are now being confronted by the same challenges as in the past, albeit more intensive and of greater magnitude, in having to grapple with foreign concepts and to find suitable words and terms to denote them without violating the etymological and semantic structure of Arabic words and terms and displacing their purpose in the Islamic conceptual system. In their haste to assimilate foreign concepts without understanding that they serve a different perception of reality and of truth, and unaware of their own perception of worldview, the modernist thinkers and intellectuals have introduced into current Muslim thought and linguistic usage rampant confusion. Their tampering of important terminologies belonging to the conceptual system which depicts the worldview of IslÂm is made widespread by being disseminated in their translations and interpretations of foreign terms and concepts in dictionaries of modern Arabic, in Arabic dictionaries of the various sciences, in modernist writings in Arabic literature, in journals and the writings of secular scholars and intellectuals and their traditionalist counterparts, and in the mass media. The changes in meaning that result are caused by (i), restriction or reduction of the original pattern of meaning and its scope in its various meaningful contexts; (ii), introduction of new meaning that goes beyond what is demanded by etymology and contextual precision; (iii), introduction of key concepts from another worldview not compatible with that of IslÂm by means of arabization and dissemination in current usage; (iv), introduction of a new interpretation of worldview that is influenced by modern scientific developments; and (v), imitation by other Muslim languages of what is current in modernist Arabic usage and thought. Their arabization and introduction of concepts peculiar to secularization as a philosophical program into contemporary Muslim thought, such as ‘development’, ‘change’, ‘freedom’, ‘progress’, and secularity itself and other concepts aligned to them, have tremendously contributed to the confusion in the Muslim understanding of the meaning of religion itself and of the fundamental elements that project its worldview such as the nature of God, of Revelation, of Prophecy, of man and the psychology of the human soul, of knowledge and cognition, of ethics and its goal, of purposeful conceptualization of the meaning of education. Muslims must realize that our dialogue today is with the powerful forces of secularization as a philosophical program whose underlying philosophy and ideology have created a separation between truth and reality and between truth and values. It is only through thorough knowledge of IslÂm and its worldview, coupled with the knowledge of Western thought and civilization and the understanding of its evolutionary history of intellectual and religious development, that we can engage ourselves in this profound dialogue with success, as al-GhazÂali, under similar circumstances and in his own milieu, had demonstrated.
of Islam and Science Nexus
Harmoniously embedded in the seven-sided prayer
niche of the Cordoba
At an Analytical Distance
S. Nomanul Haq
University of Pennsylvania
It is hard to imagine any sane human being of any persuasion failing to consider the colossal tragedy of September 11 a reprehensible phenomenon in itself. And it is equally hard to fathom a member of our larger human world carrying even a semblance of humanity who would fail to grieve over the loss of so many many innocent lives in New York and elsewhere on that sunny but dark day here on the East Coast. A devastation of such massive proportions, brought about by conscious and deliberate human doing, does and must elicit our common humanity and our common rationality.
In order for us to cope with and explain fully this mind-boggling act of killing blameless civilians and giving up one’s own life in so heartless an execution of the act, we have to move into contexts other than that of religion—this much is clear to all. The questions of liberty and freedom in the world, our foreign policies, exercise of military and political power, the issues of economic control and distributive justice, the problems of millions of starving children and lamenting young mothers, the ongoing practices of systematic dispossession, genocide, oppressive governments, flouting of human rights, dismemberment and then total atomization of little girls by rocket attacks—all these matters rap hard at our doors when we try, in this sobering moment of ours, to deal with what happened.
This whole phenomenon is profoundly sensitive and highly complex, and so let me make three clear assertions at the very outset by way of a backdrop to I what have to say. First, that explaining an act is not condoning the act; the former is an analytical matter, the latter a question of our collective or individual morality and of historical judgment. Second, that reprehensibility of an act must be kept analytically distinct from the culpability for the act. And third, that those who commit reprehensible acts must be brought to justice; this is a principle that is universally espoused in all civilized world.
But my purpose here is to remain narrowly within a religious perspective, and in a scholarly—that is, analytical and neutral rational—mode to address very briefly a question that perennially shoots up now here, now there, sometimes in shadowy innuendoes, sometimes expressly on television screens in the larger view of the world. This is the terrifying question of Islam and violence.
Is Islam Inherently Violent?
Does Islam inherently support, encourage, and breed violence—carnage, massacre, murder? Has Islam carried out as a religious duty the spilling of the blood of all those outside its “Abode of Peace” (Dâr al-Islam)? Indeed, those of us who are somewhat better informed than the vast majority of our public wonder why the question arises in the first place—for in the larger sweep of the annals of history, evidence points in other directions. But the question arises for the very reason that the larger part of our humanity is only informed partially. There is, for example, so much data about the Islamic world, in particular about the Arab world, appearing daily in the media, and so little by way of a context or framework to process these data. Many of our top universities in the US barely have a full program in the study of Islamic religion or culture, our high schools hardly teach these subjects, and our ordinary public and local libraries operate in the effective vacuum of scholarly Islamic material.
But I must not veer into considerations of policy-making, government practices, or contemporary politics. Rather, I shall begin by recalling the words of a highly respected scholar of Islam, not a Muslim let us note, and one who is an ardent supporter of Zionism, Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton University. In the very beginning of one of his famous works, The Jews of Islam, Lewis cracks the petrified myth: The stereotype “that depicts a fanatical warrior, an Arab horseman riding out of the desert with a sword in one hand and the Qur’ân in the other, offering his victims a choice between the two,” he writes, “is not only false but impossible—unless we are to assume a race of left-handed swordsmen, ... [for] no self-respecting Muslim, then or now, would use [the left hand] to raise the Qur’ân.”! So preposterous is the myth for Lewis that he here dismisses it on purely rational grounds that have a comic quality—this amounts to belittling and trivializing the myth in order to underscore the historic absurdity of the stereotypical construction. Indeed, elsewhere Bernard Lewis is direct: “It has sometimes been said that the Islamic religion was imposed by force. This is not true ...”
Of course one need not examine any historical or doctrinal data to reach the rational conclusion that intolerance, violence, and bloodshed could not possibly have been Islamic values in any real sense. For if they were, Islam would not have been a civilization but a mafia, and it is a law of nature that mafias do not create civilizations since inherent in them are active forces and mechanisms of rapid internal destruction. But Islam produced a sustained civilization such that its contributions in the arts and letters and science and philosophy are, as the great historian of science George Sarton once said, part and parcel of our intellectual and spiritual existence in the West. Alchemy, algebra, alcohol, the sine (of an angle)—all these words are part of our vocabulary transmitted proximately from the world of Islam; and then we have, for example, the ubiquitous term “algorithm,” a Latinization of “al-Khwârizmî,” the name of a ninth century Muslim mathematicians who introduced to the West what we call Arabic numerals. Speaking solely on grounds of common sense, this does not sound like the deeds of a murderous mafia; such cultural yields cannot be harvested from soils fed with innocent human blood—at the psychological level of the actors they require careful nourishment and cultivation, stability and sustainability, fascination and deference for other cultures and peoples.
What is Jihad?
But what is this dreaded concept of jihâd? As Muslims keep repeating ad nauseam, the word literally means “striving”; it arises out of the same root from which stem words such as “ijtihâd,” a legal term meaning independent rational ruling, and “mujâhada,” a word usually denoting mystical exercises for spiritual purification. Normative Islamic literature speaks of jihâd as a total endeavor taking into its fold both the depths of the inner being and the “secular affairs” of the external world; both the spiritual struggle within one’s self, and the armed struggle in the battlefield with one’s “wealth and life” in the cause of God. Indeed, many Muslim authorities, particularly (and ironically) those of the Shî‘î persuasion, consider the former to warrant “the greater jihâd,” and the latter “the lesser jihâd.” Yet, the matter is not all that simple. The Qur’ân lays down the precept that jihâd is a duty—but when it speaks of it, one finds divergent and inconsistent texts.
First, there exist in the Qur’ân verses that enjoin forgiveness for offenses and encourage invitation to Islam by peaceful persuasion (e.g., 2:109; 3:157-159). Second, one finds verses that enjoin fighting but only in defense to ward off aggression, expressly forbidding aggression (e.g., 2:190). Third, there are those that permit initiative in fighting but not within the four sacred months (e.g., 9:5). And, finally, those that allow taking the initiative in fighting at any time and at any place, provided that there are compelling reasons of being actually or potentially wronged, oppressed, or threatened (e.g., 2:217). Similar is the situation with regard to Hadîth, the authenticated body of reports of the sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad, and sometimes of his Companions who enjoy derivative authority. In the corpora of Hadîth, which were compiled some two hundred years after the death of the Prophet, all manner of variations in contents and degree of authenticity is to be found in the reports concerning jihâd.
What does this mean? Quite simply, it means that if we operate in isolation from the historical data and actual Islamic practice, no definitive assertion can be made concerning the specifics of the Qur’ânic doctrine on jihâd or the Hadîth teachings on the matter, the two legally binding material sources of Islamic jurisprudence. All we can do is make a very general observation—namely, that naked lawless aggression born out of unbridled human ego is nowhere permitted or cultivated in these sources. So we have at least three tasks at hand: first, we need to historicize the text of the Qur’ân; second, we have to see how Muslim tradition itself understood the Qur’ânic doctrine and how it incorporated it into its legislative framework; and third, and this is the most important task, we have to examine how Muslims in actual fact conducted themselves in the fuller swing of fifteen hundred years of their history. I shall not take up the first task since it would take me far beyond the scope of this very short disquisition. Rather, I shall put the matter aside and say only that the variations in the Qur’ânic narrative reflect different phases in the vicissitudes of the foundational history Islam. Now, the second task.
Is Jihad defensive only?
It would be wrong to say, as many modern Muslim apologists do, that the Islamic doctrine of jihâd is a doctrine of defensive armed resistance only, or that the Islamic scope of jihâd is restricted exclusively to inner spiritual struggle of a strictly pacifist kind. This is doctrinally untrue, historically inaccurate, and rationally impossible. The fact is that the Islamic tradition on jihâd was developed by legists on much more pro-active lines, and this was carried out through a process of an agreed upon understanding (fiqh) of the two material sources, namely the Qur’ân and the Prophetic custom. This process began in earnest in the latter half of the eighth century and—most significantly—this coincides with the period of great Islamic conquests, in which Muslims as victors encountered other peoples, their cultures, and lifestyles. Experts speak of a likelihood that the Islamic legal tradition of jihâd was influenced by the culture of the Byzantine Empire, where the idea of religious wars was very much alive.
The crux of the Islamic legal jihâd tradition is the theory that Islam constitutes one single community (umma) organized under one single authority and that it is the duty of the umma to invite more and more people to Islam and to expand its abode “until there is persecution no more, and the religion is God’s” (2:193). In very broad outline, the classical principle of jihâd, a principle that is conventional and not a Qur’ânic decree, required that people who are the object of jihâd must first be invited by persuasion to embrace Islam. If they do so, they become part of the umma with all its rights and duties. If they refuse, then imposed upon them are two taxes, a poll tax (jizya) and a land tax (kharâj); in return, they become protected communities (dhimmî) under Islamic political rule, free to practice their own faiths within themselves. If they decline this too, they must fight. All this applied to “the People of the Book”: Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, not to polytheists—but the question as to who meets the definition did sometimes remain problematic. So here we have the classical theory, but even as a theory it has had its Muslim opponents—for example, as early as the first half of the eighth century, and this is the time of massive Islamic conquests, we have the voice of one al-Thawrî declaring that jihâd is obligatory but only in defense. Most ironically, the Twelver Shî‘îs, those who make up the vast majority of the Iranians, hold that jihâd can only be waged under the rightful Imâm—but after the Occultation of the last one in 873, no lawful jihâd can now be fought!
History not eschatology
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So let me take up, again very briefly, the third task and glance at the actual Muslim conduct in the larger sweep of history. Here one fundamental characteristic of Islam must be kept in mind: At the core of Islamic religious thinking lies the axiom that the arena of divine activity is history itself. Truth, justice, balance, moral order, economic well-being, food, shelter—all this must be brought about and attained here in this world, not in a kingdom that is to arise at the end of time; the Islamic view of history, as Marshall Hodgson had said so elegantly, is a kerygmatic view of history. Given this, wars and battles are admitted as realities of the historical process, not denied or disguised. We know that the Prophet of Islam did fight battles, and given that a declared state of war existed during his time between Medina and Mecca, he offered both defensive military resistance to attacks and did make strategic pre-emptive strikes too, as it must happen in all wars and battles.
But what remained alive in Muslim memory, and what has commanded universal agreement in Islam, are the five defining moments of the Prophet’s conduct in this regard. First, his declaration that non-combatants, particularly women, children, priests, monks, and other religious personages, are not to be made the object of military attack. Second, his act of forbidding the destruction of the sacred buildings of other religious communities, such as churches or temples. Third, his strict instructions to his soldiers not to destroy crops, trees, or plantations. Fourth, his legally binding practice of a humane treatment of captured combatants. And finally, his teaching that, upon conquest, it is unlawful to commit acts of reprisal, retaliation, retribution, or victimization.
Echoing in the chambers of Islam until this day is the Sermon of the Last Pilgrimage of the Prophet given after his conquest of Mecca. This conquest was a decisive event in world history which had made Muhammad the most powerful figure in Arabia. “All blood spilled during the Era of Ignorance,” he is reported in historical sources to have declared in the Sermon, “has been crushed under my feet!” That is, forgiven, forgotten, deemed to have received a total closure. Indeed, there are no reports of reprisals, revenge, retribution, or witch-hunting on the part of the Prophet after the Meccan conquest; no stories of forced conversions, dispossession, oppression, or exodus. Historians often recall the case of a woman who had cut open the chest of the Prophet’s fallen uncle in a battle and chewed on his liver—it is universally reported that she too was forgiven, much to her own amazement.
History is a funny thing
History is a funny thing. When we unfurl the scroll of our human past we always find profound ironies, ironies that threaten to pulverize our hardened prejudices, destroying the complacency of our neat categorizations of peoples and cultures, forcing us to think anew. In fact so surprising to modern ears are the hard facts about the historical conduct of Islam that I shall let Professor F. E. Peters of New York University speak about them, a very well-known scholar in the field and a former Christian priest; he is less likely to be suspected of partiality. “Jesus said,” writes Peters, “he has come to bring not peace but the sword. Muhammad promised neither but demanded, in God’s name, submission to God’s will. But promised or not, intended or not, the Prophet’s followers brought peace ... The conquests destroyed little; what they did suppress were imperial rivalries and sectarian blood-letting among the newly subjected population ... By an exquisite irony, Islam reduced the status of Christians to that which the Christians had earlier thrust upon the Jews, though with one difference. The reduction of Christian status was merely judicial; it was unaccompanied by either systematic persecution or blood lust ... ”
A few essential elements of this authoritative account of Peters ought to be thrown into sharp relief. Peters demonstrates how a grand event in the ninth-century Baghdad, initiated and presided over by Muslims, proved fateful to world civilization, and how it has indelibly linked in the embodiment of our enduring modern intellectual culture the three followers of Abrahamic monotheism This was the event of the recovery and reconstruction of the Hellenistic legacy: “the coming together of Muslim, Christian, and Jew in a brief but glorious exploration of what they saw, then and there and never perhaps again, as their common intellectual heritage.” Professor Dimitri Gutas of Yale has likened this event to the Italian Renaissance, and the scientific revolution, and has alerted us that “it deserves so to be recognized and embedded in our historical consciousness.”
Peters also recalls the Crusades in juxtaposition to the Muslim conquest and re-conquest of Jerusalem; these are sobering realties of history. Jerusalem was taken by Muslims first in the 638, just a few years after the death of the Prophet. It was practically a bloodless capture, “without notable resistance.” We are told that “the Muslims generally built their own places of prayer and left the Christian shrines untouched,” and so in Jerusalem: “The Christians were left undisturbed in their Churches ... Indeed, there is strong evidence that the Jews were not only permitted to return to and live in Jerusalem, whence the Romans, both pagan and Christian, had banned them for five centuries, but that the Muslims allowed them to worship at their side on the Temple Mount ...” Then, the Western knights, crying “Deus le volt!”, took Jerusalem in 1099, “and slew the Muslim survivors down to the women and children, ... the Dome of Rock was converted into a church.” But in 1187, the Crusaders were driven out by Saladin: “The fighting was savage again, but this time there was no wholesale massacre in its wake.” How ironic, Peters says that the idea of jihâd as Holy War and its henceforward large presence in Muslim consciousness may well have been instilled by the Franks who made it clear “that they, at least, were engaged in a holy war over Jerusalem.”
Can one claim that Muslims never abused power, and never committed any bloodshed? The answer is a clear No! But in the larger scheme of things we have a very different picture. I sometimes remind my students that Hitler was not an Islamic product—he couldn’t have been!
 Bernard Lewis. The Jews of Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984, p. 3.
 Bernard Lewis. “Introduction” in idem ed. The World of Islam. New York: Thomas and Hudson,
1992, p. 14.
 Strictly speaking, it should be “algorism”; see The Oxford English Dictionary, s. v.
 Rudolph Peters. “Jihâd” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, J. L. Esposito ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995, s.v.
 See Marshall G. S. Hodgson. The Venture of Islam, vol. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chapter iv.
 F. E. Peters. “The Early Muslim Empires: Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids” in M. Kelly ed. Islam: The Religious and Political Life of a World Community. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984, p. 79.
 Ibid., p. 80.
 D. Gutas. Greek Thought, Arabic Culture. London: Routledge, 1998, p. 8.
 Peters, op. cit., pp. 76-78.
 Ibid., pp. 84-87.
God, Life and the Cosmos: Christian and Muslim Perspectives by (eds.) Ted Peters, Muzaffar Iqbal, Syed Nomanul Haq.
God, Life, and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives is the first book of its kind in which scholars and representatives of two major religious traditions reflect on the tensions, support, and overlap between science and religion with regard to the fundamental questions of the origin and purpose of life and cosmos.
All but three chapters in this volume are revised versions of the papers presented at the International Conference. God, Life and the Cosmos: Theistic Perspectives, held on November 6-9, 2000 at Islamabad, Pakistan. The conference brought together 23 scientists and scholars from various parts of the world for three days of presentations and discussions. It was jointly organized by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley, California, USA; the Islamic Research Institute of the International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan; and the International Institute of Islamic Thought, Islamabad.
The 14 chapters that make up this volume deal with the philosophical issues in the science-religion discourse, cosmology, and bioethics. Providing the context for the whole volume, the first section of the book explores the philosophical, historical, and methodological foundations of the relationship between science and the two religious traditions. It also presents various aspects of the Islamic scientific tradition and its relationship with the religious faith that is considered to have shaped and defined it. The second section focuses on cosmology, and the third on life, consciousness, and bioethics.
This book does not address all facets of the rich and intricate discourse on the relationship between science and religion; no single volume can. Neither does it attempt to establish an interfaith dialogue in the context of the science-religion discourse; it is still too early to make such an attempt. This collection of chapters does, however, attempt to present a broad overview of Christian and Muslim perspectives on the relationship between faith and science in general, and between the two religious traditions and some aspects of modern cosmology and bioethics.
This is a small beginning toward addressing some urgent concerns in the field of science and religion. They are urgent because, after all, science and religion are the two most important forces that make up the warp and weft of contemporary life as it is lived in various parts of the globe. Both have global impact, both are powerful, and both claim to provide answers to some of the most enigmatic questions that humanity has ever faced.
When these papers were written and presented, the world had not yet witnessed the shocking events which closed the first year of our the millennium. Then we had a different kind of war and peace in our minds: the alleged war between science and religion and the peace we sought between these two powerful forces that shape our contemporary world. We hoped to ferret out consonance and dissonance between faith and science and explore various facets of science in the Christian and Islamic traditions. But since then, war and peace have attained completely new meanings.
In this changed global situation, there is an urgent need to pursue dialogue between various faith traditions. Such a dialogue has many forms and subject matters. The science-religion discourse involving different faiths is one such avenue. This can help in establishing new bridges through an enhanced awareness of God, life and the cosmos we all share. Thus it is our hope that this small volume will contribute toward this goal, leading to a peaceful sharing of our planet and its resources as well as to a deeper sense of unity.
Whenever I think of God as the Creator, Cherisher and Sustainer of the universe, I look for Him all around me and inside me. I see God's will showing miracles everywhere. Such miracles are so common in nature and in various forms of life around us that we often take them for granted. We seldom wonder why the sun shines, the air blows and the rain falls from the skies. We seldom realize how many countless humans, animals and plant forms take shape and grow on earth every day and ultimately decay and die one day. The museum of nature is full of miracles but we seldom look at them with a searching eye. We seldom realize that there is always a system in each seemingly novel occurrence in nature. The laws of nature follow a universal pattern everywhere. Although planet earth is a tiny sphere in the universe yet everything everywhere on earth follows the same laws of nature that prevail all over the universe. The unity of the universe leads us directly to the unity of its Creator, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the universe. La illaha ill-Allah.
After my higher academic pursuits in Philosophy and Psychology over half a century ago, I often wondered why a religious priest could not convey the image and the will of God to the common man in the same way as the scientist made him conscious of the laws of nature in the flow of air , sunshine or rainfall. One would argue that the two spectrums are not the same. One is spiritual and the other physical. We know however that the two domains are not entirely separable either. God is not isolated from His creations. In fact, as a creation of God ourselves, we could reach God more through self-awareness than through observation of nature and universe. We can not assume self-awareness however, without reference to our natural environment and its relationship with us. We are a part of the universe and any comprehensive self-awareness must encompass a unified vision of the universe around us and inside us.
Self-awareness in relation to nature and universe around us lead us to God through countless paths both physical and spiritual. Human existence is more obviously physical. Spiritual experience comes only to a few. The end of physical existence is death. Human soul belongs to another realm of existence. In this mortal world, birth and death are the only known parameters of physical existence. We can not circumvent either. Within these parameters we look for our salvation both in this world and hereafter. The two worlds are known to be separable, yet one leads to the other. We earn in this world on what we survive in the other. Why therefore should we not use the knowledge and understanding of this universe in search of our soul and its Creator and Sustainer. Why should we accept an image of God excluded from our physical environment altogether. No doubt human experience is limited. Our vision can only reach a tiny part of the universe. Yet we are all part of God's creation, howsoever limited in perception our faculties may be. Not even the minutest particle in the universe is excluded from the creations of God. We can reach God through His creations. The unity of every particle in the universe with each other and with its Creator is the path that leads us to God.
The exclusion of physical existence from the spiritual aspirations of humankind has an historical bias. From individual self-indulgence with nature in early days of human existence on earth to the formation of idols and their worship as agents or controllers of nature is a long story. The displeasure of the idols has often been used as scapegoat for human miseries to minimize blame for individual or collective failures. Such habits of the old have survived until the present age. Idol worship still continues in various forms for the comfort of idle minds who lack the will and courage to face their own fate on earth. In many parts of the world lacking health care for instance, sickness is still attributed to the curse of gods requiring costly rituals to please them even when death is inevitable. Physical security and mundane pleasures are considered equally dependent on the goodwill of various gods in many cultures of the world even today.
The rise of human consciousness from body pedestal to realization of mind functions and search for soul has taken much longer. The cult of mind and soul grew after ages of disillusionment with the physical world leading to the quest for a better mode of human existence. The earlier human self perception of not being any different from other forms of animal life on earth was thus elevated by self recognition of human mind and soul superior to ordinary animals. Human beings took pride in their superiority over other form of life on earth least realizing that their superiority placed additional burden of more responsible human behavior. Human superiority over animals still continues to be exercised for purely physical needs with scant care for other forms of life on earth in general. Man has not ceased to be an animal. Human mind and soul ought to have restricted the instinctive freedom of choice available to humankind for the larger benefit of the humans and animals alike. Human behavior ought to be subjected to some universal form of morality, as a pre condition to the exercise of human superiority over animals. Yet it has not been so.
While animals are automatically governed by instinctive behavior, humankind requires conscious effort to adopt and follow moral values. Both mind and soul are inseparable instruments of values characterizing human conduct. It is unfortunate however that bulk of human behavior with reference to physical environment is still in the form of instinctive animal responses for self preservation and comfort separated from intellectual or spiritual aspirations. While religion signifies the quest of mind and soul for the eternal truth, natural sciences search the physical world primarily for self-exploitation. Except for an element of curiosity, there is not much of human soul involved in the scientists' search of the universe. Soul searching has been limited to the orgies of the priests. The field of spiritualism is regarded beyond the reach of science. The divide between the scientists and the priests thus widens further when hard rock disciples of both regimes turn their back to each other with lack of mutual respect and understanding. Religious priests seldom care to confer with the scientists to be current with the physical manifestations of God nor do the scientists ever relate their observations of the physical universe to its Creator to lure
the priests. Common man is thus divided between two diverging visions of life and universe primarily because of the isolated search of both the scientists as well as the priests insisting on separation of the physical from the spiritual. Such separation between the clergy and scientists has in the historical perspective served to provide limited political benefits to both classes. The unity of the universe and its Creator however firmly denies the privacy of such reserved pleasures to the priests and the scientists of the present age in the face of fast growing inter communication of knowledge all over the world. Their salvation therefore lies in a combined search for the truth.
I dare say those who shirk physical evidence of the omnipotence of God in the unity of the universe around us and inside us are really under confident of their faith in God and feel secure only in a spiritual world devoid of physical relevance. Similarly aspirants of nature are content with observing the physical universe and justifying much of human experience in terms of physical contents only, without reference to the spiritual domain even out of curiosity. Even the ever changing pattern of the physical world now diagnosed by quantum physics as passing phases of drifting energies in space has failed to urge the scientists to look for permanent relevance of human existence beyond its physical structure. Their exercise in the past has been confined to curiosity at such isolated personal experiences as telepathy and clairvoyance at best. These experiences by themselves of course failed to offer any universal explanation of the spiritual form except as random display of an unknown energy transcending human mind. No scientist had the means or sustained interest in verifying such theories of the unknown. The divide between the known and the unknown therefore still remains.
The scientists and religious scholars today need to join hands in exploring the physical as well as the spiritual world leading humankind to the signs of God in everything everywhere around us without professional prejudice. Let not their historical divide and split vision color the image of God according to their limited sight. The unity of the universe and its Creator is universal. It is the supreme truth and this truth is indivisible. Scientific discoveries and spiritual experiences of humankind must be merged together to form a unified vision of the universe. Let not any diabolical theories originating from physical or spiritual limitations of humankind destroy our peace of mind. Let not any paradox springing from non-resolution of diverging egoistic portrayal of isolated human experience trouble us any more. Let not our past history of self-isolation, ignorance and pride lead us to dismay. Let the scientists and religious scholars of old tender an apology to the young generation for separating the two forms of knowledge into self centered compartments with blind disregard of each other. Let humankind benefit from rising human consciousness of the unity of the universe around us and inside us. Let the fast growing inter communication of knowledge in the present age help to build a uniform vision of the universe and its Creator through a unified spectrum of science and religion. The two disciplines of knowledge need to be united in their
effort to lead humankind to build a peaceful and prosperous world for future generations. Only well integrated universal knowledge of this world and hereafter can save humankind from physical and spiritual disintegration.
It is unfortunate that learned scholars on both sides of the divide have confined their discourses on relevance of science and religion only to scholarly forums thus reserving their intellectual priority from common man for fear of challenge. Science and religion are taught as isolated subjects of study in educational institutions. There is no forum available to young adults to pursue their search for unification of science and spirituality. Internationally organized research and production of universally accepted literature on subjects of mutual harmony between science and religion is needed for incorporation as text books and for general reading in school and public libraries and sale on public book stalls within easy reach of the younger generation. Scholarly forums and research centers for study of inter-relation between science and religion may publish their findings through appropriate media, in easily understandable dictum for the common man, to create a climate for the younger generation to seek areas of greater harmony between science and religion in later years.
The inter relation of every particle in the universe with each other leading to the unity of the universe is based on a fine balance between various diverging forces in the universe. This universal balance binds the universe together in all its forms. As a part of the universal order therefore, humankind also needs to balance its conduct on earth as a general rule rather than an exception. Among other monotheist religions, Islam which literally means the way to peace and stability, preaches seeks to create a universal balance between extremes of human conduct as means of human salvation on earth and hereafter in accordance with God's will. God's will is seen as the perfect order in universe resulting from constant balance between diverging forces of nature. This universal order is attributed to divine will as revealed to humankind in Quran. I firmly believe that human salvation in this world and hereafter lies in acceptance of the unity of the universe and its Creator and following well balanced human conduct. There is nothing in the proven discoveries of natural sciences today that even remotely contradicts the unity of the universe and its Creator and Sustainer revealed in Quran. Islam as a balanced code of human conduct reflects the laws of nature so perfectly that it could be equally applied to all other forms of life on earth.
Shamshad A. Usmani
Email < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Phone <021-589 6051> Karachi
Misrepresentation of Islam in
Religion and Science Circles
Scientific and Spiritual Perspectives on
Myer Horowitz Theater
University of Alberta
Sunday, February 2, 2003
3:00 PM to 5:30 PM
How did the Cosmos come into
existence? When? Why?
These three questions form one of the most important themes at the heart of human understanding of God, Life and the Cosmos. In this afternoon symposium we will explore these questions with narratives and perspectives from the two most significant domains of the human quest for knowledge and understanding:
In general, the Scientific and Spiritual narratives surrounding the Cosmos are perceived to contradict each other, and the interaction between Science and Spirituality is construed as one of conflict. But is this the only possibility? By exploring narratives from both spheres on the Origins of the Cosmos, this symposium aims to illuminate the true interplay between the two quests and highlight points of divergence and
convergence. The afternoon will include multi-media assisted presentations from four notable scholarly speakers, spanning the Scientific and Spiritual perspectives. The keynote lecture by internationally renowned Cosmologist and Astrophysicist George Ellis will highlight the current scientific picture of the origin of the Cosmos at a level aimed specifically at the general audience. Following the keynote lecture, three
shorter presentations will explore the meaning of the variety of human stories surrounding Cosmological Origins. Muzaffar Iqbal and Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph will follow with two different Spiritual narratives and perspectives on the questions of the Cosmos in light of current scientific understanding. Concluding the presentations, local Cosmologist Don Page will offer one scientist’s view on how the questions of meaning relate to the Scientific quest itself. The final event of the afternoon will be a panel
discussion between the speakers examining the interrelation of the Scientific and the Spiritual narratives, in context of the common origin of the Scientific and Spiritual quests in the human desire to understand our place in the Cosmos. During the afternoon, there will be several opportunities to interact with the speakers.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
ADMISSION IS FREE
The Cosmos and its Origins: George Ellis
The present day universe is of vast size and is very old. Everything we see around us had its origins in the `Hot Big Bang' expansion of the early universe, which we understand very well. By contrast what occurred before then is not well
understood - many options have been proposed, but none have been shown to be correct, and indeed many of these proposals are untestable.
Furthermore even the most advanced science is unable to address the issue of `why' - to resolve the underlying metaphysical reasons for the existence of the cosmos. These issues have to be approached on more general philosophical grounds that take into account wider data than that which is available through strictly scientific investigation - for example the individual events in each of our lives.
This talk will outline our present scientific understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, and then consider the options and data as regards these metaphysical questions.
Judaic Perspectives on Origins - Rabbi bat Joseph:
As scientific understanding of the natural world grows, the validity of biblical text is often called into question. Indeed, the validity or place of faith in a modern technological world is frequently viewed as an all or nothing proposition. For some, science has replaced religion entirely, but is it possible to accept science and still be a person of faith? The purpose behind our origins have occupied the minds of rabbinic scholars for generations. I propose to explore the ways in which the Jewish tradition understand the Genesis narratives and how these play out against our
understanding of the scientific origins of the universe.
Islamic Perspectives on Origins - Muzaffar Iqbal:
This presentation will begin with the preliminary
remarks about the Islamic sources for the
construction of narratives on the Origins and
then move on to the historical framework,
bringing into sharp relief the question of
historical understanding of the source material by
Muslim scientists and scholars. The final part of
the presentation will deal with contemporary
issues and will present various Muslim positions
on modern cosmological theories.
A Scientist's Perspective on Meaning - Don Page:
Both science and religion help to give meaning to the universe. It is said that science helps tell how the universe works, and religion helps tell why. This is partially true, but the difference in roles is not so clear cut. In seeking a comprehensive description of as much of the universe as possible, science is not content just to have a description. Science seeks as
simple an explanation as possible, which must include an explanation of the relationships between properties of the universe instead of just a catalogue of these properties. In answering the how questions,
George F. R. Ellis
University of Capetown Dr. Ellis is a professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Capetown. His professional research work concentrates on relativity theory and cosmology and he has published over 200 scientific papers and several books including The Large scale Structure of Space Time, which he co-authored with Steven Hawking. He published several papers on the relationship between science and religion and is active on several Quaker committees and boards.
Center for Islam and Science
Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal is the founderpresident of the Center for Islam and Science (CIS), Canada. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Saskatchewan, and has held positions at several universities. Dr. Iqbal has also held Directorial positions at the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) and the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS). He is the author and editor of several books, including his latest books: Islam and Science (Ashgate, 2002) and God, Life and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives (Ashgate, 2002).
Don N. Page
University of Alberta Don Page received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from the California Institute of
Technology, where his thesis on black holes was supervised by Kip S. Thorne and Stephen Hawking. Dr. Page then held a NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science at Cambridge where he worked as a
research assistant under Prof. Hawking, and received an M.A. Currently, Dr. Page is a Professor of Physics at the UofA where he researches Quantum Cosmology.
Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph
Beth Ora Reform Synagogue
Rabbi bat Joseph attended the University of Calgary, earning a joint degree of Bachelor of Education (Social
Studies) and Arts (Religious Studies and Applied Ethics). She went on to study for the Rabbinate, studying first in Israel and then Cincinnati, where she obtained her Master of Hebrew Letters. She is currently the Reform Rabbi of the Beth Ora Reform Synagogue in Edmonton.
3:00 Welcome and Introduction
3:10 The Cosmos and Its Origins
3:50 Audience Questions
4:00 Judaic Perspectives on Origins
Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph
4:15 Islamic Perspectives on Origins
4:30 A Scientist's Perspective on Meaning
4:45 Panel Discussion
5:15 Audience Questions
Master of Ceremonies: Jason J. Blackstock
"Blood, oil, and water flow. Science studies these diverse liquids; its discoveries are then used to develop technologies that use these liquids to foster life or eliminate it.”
Thus begins the “Editorial” of the first issue of “Islam and Science”, a journal dedicated to exploring various dimensions of science from Islamic perspectives. Edited by Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal, the bi-annual journal will make its debut on June 1, 2003. The table of contents, editorial, and first pages of the articles are now available online. Subscription is needed to read the complete text of the papers. (Please see links at the end of this posting.)
Blood, oil, and water flow. Science studies these diverse liquids; its discoveries are then used to develop technologies that use these liquids to foster life or eliminate it.
All religious traditions view blood, oil and water from their own unique perspectives and build belief systems, ideas, and concepts which change these materials into symbols, making it possible for us to transcend the physical realm. Thus transfixed between the physical and the non-physical realms, blood, oil and water assume new meanings, now accentuated by a war that has desecrated these veritable representatives of profound mysteries in a manner and at a scale that has brought humanity to a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.
As this inaugural issue of Islam & Science goes to press, this menacing catastrophe looms large in the foreground: dreadful images and sounds, originating in the battlefields located in ancient centers of civilization, are spreading to all parts of the world. Techniques used in the making of these images, weapons being used in the war and the way news is reaching millions of human beings are all products of technologies that did not exist a decade ago.
Dehumanized and made abstract through technologically generated images, the human suffering caused by lethal weapons is being depicted as if it were merely a computer simulation, as if men, women and children who were walking on Abu Talib Street in Baghdad a day ago and who have now been charred beyond recognition were not real human beings with feelings, desires and aspirations, but merely caricatures designed by a computer graphics program. This callous attempt to subtract the human element from the tragedy is only possible because there exists a fundamental disconnect between contemporary science, technologies produced through its application and values which define humanity as a distinct species capable of establishing an inalienable bond with the transcendental reality. In the absence of such a linkage with the transcendent, science and its products have become demonic tools which are being used to plunge humanity into an abyss, the like of which has never before been witnessed.
This chasm, that runs through the entire fabric of contemporary scientific enterprise, is observable at the social plane in an eerie silence that characterizes the response of the scientific community toward a war in which the lethal weapons being used are products of research carried out by scientists who take no responsibility in the death and destruction caused by their research. The short-lived activism of the scientific community which had opened a small window of hope after the horrific events of World War II is dead. It has left us nothing but a few axioms and reflections by a handful of leading scientists who felt pangs of guilt and remorse.
Since World War II, science has marched from one summit to another. It has also been a period during which the scientific community has fallen deeper and deeper into an immoral acquiescence to the demands of politicians and empire builders, without taking any responsibility for its deeds, as if the handiwork accomplished in the laboratory had no connection with real life. Throughout this period, while new connections were being established between the laboratory and the market, helping science find monetary resources it needed to flourish, it was simultaneously being robbed of all values, by stripping the scientific community of its essential humanness which alone can keep it connected with the larger body of humanity. This disconnect between a scientist’s research and the ethical and moral questions which emerge through the use of this research has now reached such terrible proportions that even the annihilation of thousands of human lives through weapons created by the use of scientific and technological discoveries and inventions has produced no response among the scientific community, as if it lives on another planet.
As we watch the descent of the human race into an abysmal state in which no one is willing to take responsibility for unleashing the destructive power of new inventions and discoveries, this appalling silence of the scientific community has itself become a solitary cry in the wilderness, calling out for a reflective reexamination of the role scientists are playing in the wanton destruction of our humanness.
Muharram 28, 1424/ March 31, 2003
The inaugural issue of the new journal of the
Center for Islam and Science,