Dr. Hoodbhoy speaks first lamenting the current state of science in the Islamic world. He blames the encroachment of scientific sphere by the religious extremists for hindering the progress of Muslims. He talks about the plethora of pseudo- scientific literature which boosts about recently discovered scientific facts being already alluded to in the earliest sacred texts of Islam and nonsensical claims of stationary earth, using Genie for energy and more.
According to Dr. Hoodbhoy’s account, Ehteram ul Haq Thanvi, a pakistan religious scholar and son of Ehtisham ul Haq Thanvi said to Dr. Hoodbhoy in a conversation that Muslims are behind in science because they don’t read Quran with understanding and western scientists secretly do so to make advancement in science.
Sir Syed Ahmed from subcontinent come up with an approach to keep science and religion separate and allow each to play its due role in society. He realized that if one believes in science and causality, there is no room for miracles and they have to be explained away as allegorical. Sir Syed was severely criticized for all this.
Ghazali is the prime target of Dr. Hoodbhoy’s criticism as the seminal figure who turned things around for worse at a time when Islamic Civilization was at its peak. His attack on rationality, denial of causality and inclination to mystical explanation of natural phenomenon derailed the course of scientific progress of his civilization or so believes Dr. Hoodbhoy.
Dr. Asad Q. Ahmed
Agreeing with the Hoodbhoy about the present abysmal state of science in Muslims countries, Dr. Asad disagrees with everything else he said.
The pseudo-scientific literature is not unique to Islam, it is a global phenomena.
Ghazali was not against rationality, rather his tahafut points out that those who deduce metaphysical truths from logic are not rational enough. Philosophers disagree among themselves in matters of metaphysics because their proofs are not rigorous, as they are when it concerns facts which are susceptible to demonstration. On the other hand, demonstrable phenomena like solar eclipse falls within the realm of science and it would be unwise for religious scholars to argue with philosophers and scientists on these matters.
It was the work of Muslim astronomers after Ghazali who came up with various models of solar system which directly led to the heleo-centric Copernican system.
Note: Have taken some notes as I listened to the couple hours long lecture… will post them later inshallah.
Slavery had been prevalent and accepted in all past religions and cultures. Islam is the first and the only religion to say that a free person cannot be taken as slave. Prophet Muhammad (as) said that he will the opponent of a person on day of judgement who sold a free man as slave (Bukhari).
The concept of Slavery as practiced in America before abolition has no parallel in Islam. In those days in America, any free person could just be captured and made a slave with no rights at all. What we have in Islam is the custody of prisoners of war.
The reality of war is very harsh. Even in today’s modern and civilized world, when an army runs over a village or a city, there is no one to protect the women and others inhabitants from their wrath. Islam devised rules to protect people in such situations.
Before we go into details of Islamic rules about dealing with Prisoner of War, let’s keep realities of that era in our mind.
– Wars were fought by able citizens not by armies. There were situations when most of the men from a group may be killed, leaving women, children and old behind. What should have been done with those left behind?
– It was not always possible to simply free the Prisoners of War as they would come back for revenge.
– There were no institutions comparable to modern era which could hold and incarcerate captives and provide for their food and shelter.
Given these conditions and Islam being the universal religion valid for all times and places, what is the Islamic way of dealing with prisoners of war? Islam doesn’t insist on any specific approach, rather leaves it open for the believers to make a call based on the situation of battle. They may accept ransom or take captives, both have precedents in Islamic history. What Islam does instead is to put limits on the believers as they engage with the prisoners of war.
When the question of slavery in Islam is raised, it is about this practice of taking captive in a battle and then distributing them among the fighters who were required to provide for them. This was the only possibility in absence of modern institutions and may be more humane one in some respects. Prophet said your slave is like your brother and you should feed them from what you eat and cloth them from what you wear. Messenger of Allah (as) said: “Whoever slaps his slave or beats him, his expiation is to free him.” In short, they should be properly provided for and never mistreated. This was not only talk but was practically implemented by Prophet Muhammad (as), as evident from the fact that some of the Caliphs during Umayyad and Abbasid era were from slave origins.
Islam made it one of the most rewarding deeds to free a slave. So, idea was to deal with the harsh realities of war and not to create a permanent slave class in society. That’s why all children born out of a slave were considered free in Islam.
Islamic Law in no way requires this institution of slavery. As slavery in all forms are abolished in the modern world, Islamic law is complete without it and doesn’t need it in anyway.
What may be the world’s oldest fragments of the Koran have been found by the University of Birmingham.
Radiocarbon dating found the manuscript to be at least 1,370 years old, making it among the earliest in existence.
The pages of the Muslim holy text had remained unrecognised in the university library for almost a century.
The British Library’s expert on such manuscripts, Dr Muhammad Isa Waley, said this “exciting discovery” would make Muslims “rejoice”.
The manuscript had been kept with a collection of other Middle Eastern books and documents, without being identified as one of the oldest fragments of the Koran in the world.
The fragments were written on sheep or goat skin
When a PhD researcher, Alba Fedeli, looked more closely at these pages it was decided to carry out a radiocarbon dating test and the results were “startling”.
The university’s director of special collections, Susan Worrall, said researchers had not expected “in our wildest dreams” that it would be so old.
“Finding out we had one of the oldest fragments of the Koran in the whole world has been fantastically exciting.”
The tests, carried out by the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, showed that the fragments, written on sheep or goat skin, were among the very oldest surviving texts of the Koran.
The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad… he would maybe have heard him preachProf David Thomas, University of Birmingham
These tests provide a range of dates, showing that, with a probability of more than 95%, the parchment was from between 568 and 645.
“They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam,” said David Thomas, the university’s professor of Christianity and Islam.
“According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Koran, the scripture of Islam, between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death.”
Prof Thomas says the dating of the Birmingham folios would mean it was quite possible that the person who had written them would have been alive at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
“The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad. He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him personally – and that really is quite a thought to conjure with,” he says.
Prof Thomas says that some of the passages of the Koran were written down on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels – and a final version, collected in book form, was completed in about 650.
He says that “the parts of the Koran that are written on this parchment can, with a degree of confidence, be dated to less than two decades after Muhammad’s death”.
“These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Koran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.”
Media captionSusan Worrall says the university wants to put this internationally significant discovery on public display
The manuscript, written in “Hijazi script”, an early form of written Arabic, becomes one of the oldest known fragments of the Koran.
Because radiocarbon dating creates a range of possible ages, there is a handful of other manuscripts in public and private collections which overlap. So this makes it impossible to say that any is definitively the oldest.
But the latest possible date of the Birmingham discovery – 645 – would put it among the very oldest.
Dr Waley, curator for such manuscripts at the British Library, said “these two folios, in a beautiful and surprisingly legible Hijazi hand, almost certainly date from the time of the first three caliphs”.
The first three caliphs were leaders in the Muslim community between about 632 and 656.
Dr Waley says that under the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, copies of the “definitive edition” were distributed.
Muhammad Afzal of Birmingham Central Mosque said he was very moved to see the manuscript
“The Muslim community was not wealthy enough to stockpile animal skins for decades, and to produce a complete Mushaf, or copy, of the Holy Koran required a great many of them.”
Dr Waley suggests that the manuscript found by Birmingham is a “precious survivor” of a copy from that era or could be even earlier.
“In any case, this – along with the sheer beauty of the content and the surprisingly clear Hijazi script – is news to rejoice Muslim hearts.”
The manuscript is part of the Mingana Collection of more than 3,000 Middle Eastern documents gathered in the 1920s by Alphonse Mingana, a Chaldean priest born near Mosul in modern-day Iraq.
He was sponsored to take collecting trips to the Middle East by Edward Cadbury, who was part of the chocolate-making dynasty.
- Muslims believe the words of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel over 22 years from 610
- It was not until 1734 that a translation was made into English, but was littered with mistakes
- Copies of the holy text were issued to British Indian soldiers fighting in the First World War
- On 6 October 1930, words from the Koran were broadcast on British radio for the first time, in a BBC programme called The Sphinx
The local Muslim community has already expressed its delight at the discovery in their city and the university says the manuscript will be put on public display.
“When I saw these pages I was very moved. There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes. And I’m sure people from all over the UK will come to Birmingham to have a glimpse of these pages,” said Muhammad Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque.
The university says the Koran fragments will go on display in the Barber Institute in Birmingham in October.
Prof Thomas says it will show people in Birmingham that they have a “treasure that is second to none”.