My response to "Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science"

Subject: RE: Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science

 

Dear Dr Ben Ammar,

 

Thanks for sharing this controversial and perhaps confusing article. It starts with stating the greatness of the Muslims' contribution to science at a certain age, which the writer described as the ‘golden age’ though made every possible effort to relate that greatness to external factors. He has also tried hard to validate his points by first praising Muslims then turning quite hardly and inconsistently, at times, to make the problem lies within Islam itself and not any of the socio-political factors that he mentioned.

I cannot respond to every single point he made (especially the areas that are beyond my expertise and knowledge) but there are few general comments that I can share. First, using the term ‘Islam’ is misleading and misguided in many ways. Which version of ‘Islam’ the author was referring to? He, himself, acknowledged that there are eras, sects and ideologies. Any of them can described as ‘Islam’, if you want to whether praise or condemn the faith.

Second, there was a huge gap in knowledge about the fundamentals of Islam as explained by the main and the secondary sources of Shariya. Even more, he has failed to mention, let alone explain, that Sharia has the four integrated and inter-dependent components of: manners/ethics/morality, legislation, rituals, and transactions. He failed to elaborate how the Muslim scholars have conducted extensive mental and moral reasoning and extraction of the main Islamic jurisprudence from the main sources and not (as the author tried to impose) that there was no criticism or critical thinking whatsoever.

 

That said, I do agree that we need more critical thinking and self-reflection among ourselves as Muslim academics. We should do this as a continuation of the previous efforts and not to detach ourselves from our past. The tricky part, though, and in which I agree with the author is to move forward from being merely defensive of a religion and history that we do no know well only because we are failing en mass to make our present worth our pride.

We have all seen great Muslim scientists and scholars who are contributing to the body of knowledge in almost every discipline, including astronomy and you may refer to NASA’s website for its Muslim staff scientists. They are there wherever you go in every university from Harvard to oxford to the Sorbonne to any other prestigious institution. We all know that being a Nobel laureate is only one indicator of such contribution but another internally renowned prizes like King Faisal’s use the same standards of Nobel and many of its rules nad judges to give their prizes. Even those who never got a prize at all should be deemed as useless or non-contributors.

All of them are Muslims and many of them are practicing Muslims. They did not have to leave Islam to invent and have patents.

This brings me to the importance of the socio-political factors that the author has tried to dash in a couple of sentences as irrelevant. They are indeed. No freedom, no development. Period. Under this level of totalitarian and corrupt ruling regimes in the four corners of the Muslim world, it is impossible to imagine a real or meaningful development, research and academic contribution.

In summary, I think the author raises very genuine points that are worth discussing and not simply put aside in the usual defensive approach.

 

Best regards,

Ghaiath M. A. Hussein, PhD

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