Sunday 26 February 2006

The people are high on opium - VI

A personal Islamic excursion
From the time the cartoon saga broke onto the global scene 4 months after the initial Danish newspaper publication, I have tried to study the actions, reactions, retributions, violence and commentaries that have kept this thing running for over a month.
Having explored the context of the cartoons, my Muslim heritage and the concept of freedom of expression, I intend to bring this “The people are high on opium” series to a close with one essential topic for reflection – predicated on the sayings of Mohammed (PBUH).
Our debt to Islamic civilisation
First, I call to remembrance that Islamic/Arabic civilisation provided us with the basis of our present day Western numerals.
Also, whilst Algebra (Arabic: al-jabr) does have a long progeny, modern algebra owes its existence to works of the Muslim Persian scholar Al-Khwarizmi in 820, four centuries before it was introduced to Europe by Leonardo Fibonacci.
In fact, we owe a debt of gratitude to Islamic civilisation for developments in mathematics, ground-breaking ideas in medicine and the concepts of civil society whilst the Western world then halted the advancement of the human race in the Dark Ages. See References [1][2][3]
Carly Fiorina the then CEO of Hewlett-Packard gave a speech just after the 9/11 incident and she said this much.
The civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.
Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.” [2]
The ink of a scholar
There was a time when Islamic scholarship made a whole lot of difference to civilisation as it has to humanity.
Nowhere is that admonition and call to a present-day Islamic Einstein most resounded than in one of Mohammed’s sayings.
The ink of a scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.” [4]
When I came upon this quote, I despaired about how some religious leaders had diverted viable Islamic resources from ink to blood and many who might have lived to become great scholars are shovelled down the path of becoming martyrs.
This saying of the prophet is further reinforced by this; "What is the best type of Jihad [struggle]?" He answered: "Speaking truth before a tyrannical ruler.Riyadh us-Saleheen Volume 1:195 [5]
Tyranny [6] is described in terms of oppressive power or rigorous conditions imposed by an outside agency or force. That would definitely bring the Palestinian struggle under the spotlight.
The sufferings of the Palestinians is grievous indeed, but one can say more blood has been spilt in the Intifada than ink in the negotiations.
Furthermore, in the light of the atrocious insult and slur that the Danish cartoons depict, we hear the prophet say; “To overcome evil with good is good, to resist evil by evil is evil.” [4]
This saying would probably appear in any other religious book and it shows how we all probably have gone astray, being lead down the cul de sac of discord instead of the open road of enlightenment.
Resurrect the age of reason
The context of this message is simple; it is time for the age-old tradition of enlightened Islam to come back to the fore, not that of fundamentalist Islam that skews the message and creates a clash of civilisations, but that which builds upon civilisation through scholarship.
We need the emancipation of scholarship that keeps the engine of knowledge cranking forward in aid of humanity and in spite of circumstances.
In quick-fire succession, we can see that the quest for knowledge is paramount for the Muslim as it is for all humankind.
Here are other quotes attributed to the prophet.
The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female.” [7]
I would suspect the Taliban got it radically wrong there, considering Taliban means the seeker of knowledge; as they kept females out of school.
Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 38 [7]
Has anyone gone back to the book to see that this pervades every strata of Islam? No better quote to state that extremism creates no perfection brings bad tidings and offers no beneficial reward.
Worship, without knowledge, has no goodness in it and knowledge without understanding has no goodness in it. And the recitation of the Qur'an, which is riot thoughtful has no goodness in it.” [7]
I think it is time for the protesters to reconsider their strategy, we now all know that those cartoons were insulting; however, in the light if all said and done, it is unlikely that Islam has been best represented by what ensued.
If Islam is the religion of peace; would the peacemakers please step forward?
‘Nuff said!

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