, by KHALID QASMI
Muslims make up a quarter of the world population, but they possess only 6% of the world’s wealth. Two-thirds of the world’s poor who live on less than US $2 a day are Muslims. Among the 5000 products in the various fields of production with which various countries distinguish themselves, none of them belongs to any Muslim country. Except for oil, caviar and Persian rugs, the 57 member countries of the OIC, hardly present anything substantial to the international marketplace. Forty per cent of educated Muslim youth fail to obtain adequate employment in their own countries. Politically, the Muslim world exerts only the weakest influence on world affairs. While it is the least productive part of the world when it comes to scientific research and technology.
These figures might not be hundred per cent correct, but the disparity between Muslims and others in various fields of life is not a secret and there are hardly two opinions on the dismal condition of Muslim backwardness.
Who is responsible for this sorry state of the Muslim world? This question has been discussed time and again and volumes of books and articles have been written on it. Instead of going into details, let us seek the guidance of the Holy Qur’an, which encourages self-introspection, and subsequently leads us to ask as to how we got into this situation instead of asking who did this to us. The Qur’an says:
“Every soul earns the results of its deeds on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of others.” ( Surah al-Anam: 164)
“Whatever good happens to you is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to you is from own self.”(Surah al-Nisa: 79)
“And if anyone earns sin, he earns it against His own soul.” (Sura al-Nisa: 111)
“Because Allah will never change the grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is in their own souls.” (Surah al-Anfal: 53)
“Allah does not change people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts.”(Sura al-Rad: 11)
Verses like these present the Qur’anic principle that the basis of change comes from within oneself. Muslims must take full responsibility for what has happened to them and adopt proper Islamic character if they wish to change their condition and bring about reform.
All is not lost yet. Knowledge and science does not belong to a particular community or region. Hard work, conducive environment, positive and scientific thinking coupled with logic and reason is all that is required for flourishing science, technology and knowledge in any community. In the earlier and golden era of Islam, all the necessary requirements were available. First, Islam, represented in the Qur’an and Sunnah, encouraged the faithful to discover and evaluate the nature instead of worshipping it. Muslim Caliphs and rulers too generously helped the scholars, scientists and financed projects and institutes of learning and science. The result was the establishment of great centres for learning throughout the Muslim world, especially in Spain, where students from Europe and other parts of the world flocked to seek knowledge.
The efforts to bring science and technology closer to the Muslim world are indeed welcome steps to help Muslims regain their lost glory and treasure. It is heartening to see some serious and sincere initiatives coming up in this direction from the land that is birthplace of Islam and enjoys greater influence among the Muslim nations. The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques and visionary king of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, laid down on October 21, 2007 cornerstone for King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz University of Science and Technology (KAUSAT) in a village near Jeddah. The project is monumental in the sense that 10 billion Saudi Riyal (approximately 2.67 billion US Dollar) has been allocated as its budget. A huge area of 36 million square metres has been earmarked. The university will focus on PhD and Master’s education and will adopt best of the research practices from the leading world institutes. It has already entered into formal partnership with the well-known centres for science and technology in the US, France, Singapore, India and some other countries.
This university is the brainchild of the visionary king Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz who admittedly said, “Compared to others, Muslim countries are far behind in the fields of scientific research and need to create solutions for the challenges facing the kingdom and the region and bring about a conducive atmosphere for the inventions and the talented technological ideas of scientific importance.” He referred to the university as “Bait Al-Hekma” (House of wisdom) the name by which the centres of learning and science were known in the golden Muslim era. The king expressed his expectation that “KAUST will be a beacon of hope and reconciliation and will serve the people of the kingdom and benefit all the peoples of the world in keeping with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, which explained that God created mankind in order for us to come to know each other.” The interim president of KAUST, Nadhmi A. Al-Nasr says that KAUST is revival of the 9th century, when Islam led the world in science and mathematics. Today, in the 21st century, it is nothing less than renaissance in the Muslim world.
It is this renaissance that the Muslim world needs if it wishes to regain its past glory. Apart from this truly giant King Abdullah University for Science and Technology, there are other initiatives being taken in the Muslim world in general and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular, which suggest the waking up of Muslims to the importance of making genuine efforts to regain their lost ground in the fields of knowledge, research, science and technology.
King Saud University in Riyadh has launched a Nobel Laureate programme to promote science and technology, develop research and spread the culture of science with an aim to transform the nation into a knowledge-based society. The university has signed contracts with 11 Nobel Laureate scientists and other well-known institutes in the world. This programme aims at enhancing research facilities, encouraging innovations and allowing students and scholars to benefit from the experiences and guidance of Nobel laureates and other scientists.
Another Saudi university, King Faisal university, has also launched a novel project named as UPP (University Preparatory Programme), designed to stimulate critical thinking, change attitudes about learning and enable students to achieve success in their studies. This is a scientific western programme tailored for Saudi needs and comes from the US, Canada, Australia and the UK and South Africa. With the boom in oil income, in Saudi Arabia alone, 10 new universities have come up, dozens of professional colleges and research institutes have been launched and some 50000 students have been deputed to several destinations in the east and west for modern education.
This is perfect example that needs to be followed by all Muslim countries and groups throughout the globe. Wisdom and knowledge is, according to the Messenger’s saying, goal and treasury of all Muslims, who must acquire it from anyone and anywhere they find it.
“Then High above all be Allah, the True King. And be not in haste with the Qur’an before its revelation is completed to you and say: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Surah Taha: 114) (Concluded)