Islam and Science by Mahathir Bin Mohammad

1. A commentator asked "if the Islamic Empire (there never was an Islamic empire in the sense of the other Empires - only an Islamic community - the Ummah) was so good in science before why are the Orgainisation of Islamic Conference countries lagging behind in science and technology?".

2. I had explained why before but i think I should repeat.

3. The early Muslims accepted the message of Allah in the Qur'an enjoining upon Muslims to read (Iqraq). The verse (the first to be received by the Prophet - an illiterate man) did not specify, much less limit what Muslims should read.

4. There were no books on Islam at that time but there were many books on the Hebrew and the Christian religions. There were also many books or tracts on Greek science and philosophy as well as Indian mathematics.

5. The early Muslims read and eventually translated all the writings of the Greeks, the Indians and others. Obviously they had to learn these languages first. Then they followed up by doing their own research.

6. And so the early Muslims were learned in the subjects pioneered by these other races and this added to the body of knowledge they had acquired.

7. The Europeans on the other hand were wallowing in the superstitions of the Dark Ages despite having embraced Christianity. The superior civilisation of the Muslims overwhelmed the Europeans so that Spain, Portugal, Sicily, Greece and much of Eastern Europe fell under Muslim rule.

8. But around the 15th Century of the Christian era, fatwas were made by Muslim Ulamas that "Iqraq" or read was intended for reading and studying religion only. From then on the Muslim scientists, physicians, mathematicians etc stopped their study of these subjects in order to study religion exclusively.

9. On the other hand the Europeans noticing the greatness of the Muslim civilisation decided to acquire the knowledge of the Muslims in the different subjects, including those of the Greeks. To do this Christian priests learnt Arabic and were thus able to gain access to the great libraries of Cordoba, Baghdad and elsewhere. They translated the work of the Muslim scholars and scientists into Latin and then into the other European languages.

10. If we care to read the history of the Muslims and the Europeans we would notice that from around the 15th Century of the Christian era when the Muslims rejected what they regarded as non-religious knowledge, the Muslim civilisation began to regress.

11. The Europeans, after acquiring the knowledge of the Muslims started to emerge from the Dark Ages and to build the civilisation that we see today.

12. Unfortunately Muslim historians seem not to have noticed the significance of the fatwas of the 15th Century A.D. Even today Muslims seem unwilling to connect this decline of their civilisation with the neglect of non-religious knowledge. But European historians admit that their emergence from the Dark Ages, their Renaissance, coincided with their study of the Islamic civilisation and its origins.

The below commentary is by a person who commented on this post, and i really liked it, it was like this,

I find the comments to your latest commentary extremely interesting and it may help explain the reason and fear of some muslims towards science. I noticed that the part that needled most of your conservative muslim commentators is your point that the great prophet was illiterate. It is taken as a possible insult when it is meant as an encouragement for his followers to emulate his thirst of knowledge and curiousity. The prophet and his early followers (much like the europeans of the renaissnace era) were very observant and curious people. They challenged themselves to explain the wonders of the almighty. They questioned why and how instead of just leaving it to Allah's will. This is a characteristic and behavior that the Muslims have failed to adhere to because it is too difficult and it does not fit their view of power and political structure. They prefer to memorize the "letter of the Quran" rather than its spirit. They would rather just follow the prophet's appearence and style (dressing and way of eating) rather than his characteristics (honest and thoughtful)and substance. They want to copy his actions but do not want to debate and understand his reasons because it is too difficult and as such best reserved to the chosen few who may have other agendas in place.

Prophet Muhamad was a leader during his time not because he was happy with the status quo or because he happens to be a son of a Sultan or royalty. He was an illiterate orphan, shephard and merchant. However he was curious and discontented with life and the system during the time. He reflected and meditated and with the almighty's grace and blessing, found islam and a fairer way of life than one that he was born into. After his passing, his early followers debated and build on "his curiousity". They thought and debated not only the letter but the spirit of the quran and his actions. They pursued knowledge in the spirit and gusto of the prophet and the more they understood, the more they respected the almighty. Sadly this spirit is now missing in the islamic world.

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