Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Khayyam

Persian poets: Life was written before you were born…?

 November 3, 2008

Khayyam and Hafiz, (November 1, 2008)

I finished reading a French translation of the quatrains of the Persian poets Khayyam and Hafiz.

Although four centuries separate the two poets, the style, idea and philosophy are the same! The enemies are the same: tight hypocritical clerics and rigid rules governing daily moral behavior.

The main philosophy is that your life has been written before you were born, and so why all these constraints that hamper joy in this ephemeral life?

Drinking wine (mainly beer) is the main symbol for breaking into all the prohibitions.

I read in the French book “Pintades de Tehran” that many girls there brandish the collection of Hafiz poems as their amorous poetic Bible.

Many critics go a long way differentiating between the living lover and the mystical idea of a God.

There is no difference; it is a matter of level of energy and the power of abstract notions.  You cannot compare the passions of an old man with a youth, qualitatively and quantitatively.

Even a young man full of energy and zest can be lead astray by an abstract notion that he thinks cannot hurt him, and that he may manipulate it to his convenience any time he desires.

Let a young man fall in love with a real person and quickly disappointment overcomes him:  A living lover is Not as convenient as an abstract notion of a God, liberty, freedom, independence and human dignity.

What happens to a healthy person who awakes early and is invigorated by the morning breeze?  Wings develop to the mind and spirit and everything seems possible and alternatives boom.

What happens to a healthy person, tired of a day’s work, who sits down in the evening to get slowly drunk?  Wings develop to his subconscious mind and his spirit gets loose; but what his mind imagines can become real.

In every language the same imagery and selected “poetic” words in poems recurs indefinitely.  You finally realize that one good poem is representative of the spirit and poetical aspiration of a whole civilization; you read one poem in one style and you feel you read them all.  

And you realize that you are glad that you can read several languages so that you may compare the richness in imagery.

The process is as follows:

Once a poet start writing, abstract notions gradually replaces real life constraints and inadequacies.  As the poet realizes that he is indeed talking in abstraction, he explodes and soars into incomprehensible symbolism of the antiquities; the sort of odes that hard neck poets appreciate.

And what are the interests of the general public in all that?  Just leave it to the specialists to explain the meaning and beauty of the imageries and symbolism.

A one directional mind is dangerous and counter-productive to the re-birth of the spirit, and discovering newer individual truths.

Time, more time and some experiences are pre-requisites for forming minds “below average”, but time is the arch-enemy of the spirit.

It is ridiculous that youth has to cater for survival when he should be expressing his

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“Why the Arab World is not free?” : Reactions

Note: I decided to post a reply to the comments on my book review “Why the Arab World is not free?” by Moustapha Safouan https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/why-the-arab-world-is-not-free-by-moustapha-safouan/

            One of the commentarors wrote: “I am the son of two civilizations that have formed a happy marriage. The first civilization is seven thousand years old of Pharaonic Egypt; the second is Islamic of one thousand four hundred years old.  One day the great Pyramids will disappear but Truth and Justice will remain for as long as Mankind has a reflective mind and a living conscience.

            A Moslim Caliph returned prisoners of war to the Byzantium Empire in exchange of ancient Greek manuscripts in philosophy, medicine and mathematics. This is a testimony of value for the human spirit in its demand for knowledge; the believer in One God demanded the fruits of a pagan civilization.

            It was my fate to be born in the lap of these two civilizations and to feed on their literature and art. The truth of the matter is that Evil is a loud and boisterous debaucherer, and that Man remembers what hurts more than what gives pleasure. Our great poet Abul-3Alaa2 al Ma3ari was right when he said: “A grief at the hour of death is more than a hundred-fold Joy at the hour of birth.”

            When the Moslem’s Armies extended their territories from Spain to Persia, they took possession of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and other Greek thinkers. One of the prime reasons attributed to Moslims’ intellectual enhancement in the Middle Ages is the considerable influence of Greek philosophy to a rational new religion. Up to the nineth century Muslim intellectuals valued reason in their interpretation of the Koran and Hadith.  Our present day Moslem heroes associate with the rational past.

            In early Islam there was a philosophical debate that started with al-Ghazali and resumed by Ibn Rushd and led the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II (1451-1481), the conqueror of the Capital Byzantium, to order two of the Empire’ scholars to compile books to summarize the debate between Ghazali and Ibn Rushd.  The philosophy of al-Ghazali was attacking the ideas of Avicenna or Ibn Sina (980-1037) and Farabi who were inspired by Aristotle, Plato, and Plotinus.  Avicenna is known as al-Sheikh Rais (Leader among the wise men); in the west, he is also known as the “Prince of Physicians” for his famous medical text Qanun “Canon”. In Latin translations, his works influenced many Christian philosophers, most notably Thomas Aquinas. The spread of Hellenistic philosophy in the Moslim world was expounded by the first Arabic philosopher Kindi (800-865) who wrote many works on Greek science and philosophy. As a mathematician Kindi realized the importance of Aristotelian logic. Farabi’s ideal rulers would be chosen for their intelligence and educated in science, philosophy, and religion. According to Farabi, the best ruler for this Muslim state would be a “philosopher-king”, a concept described in Plato’s Republic. One of the most important contributions of Farabi, beyond his political views and scientific philosophies, was to make the study of logic easier by dividing it into two categories – Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof). He wrote several sociological books, including his famous work – Al-Madina al-Fadila (The Model City).  In Andalusia (Spain) Ibn Rushd commented on Al Ghazali argument by argument defending the power of rational and investigative thinking; his work became the foundation for Europe Renaissance in understanding Aristotle.

            This part of history needs to be written; there are no takers yet. Orthodoxy in Islam rarely allows the treatise of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037), Kindi (800-865) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) to become the syllabus of mainstream thought process.  A Moslem student might revere Avicenna and Averroes but he is not offered the opportunity to read their works. If Avicenna and Averroes’s thinking were part of the dialogue within Islam then the sun of the golden era would have never set. We cannot cite Khayyam as an example of a great poet and completely forget the message he gave. We may disagree with Khayyam but introducing his thinking will help us to determine what pluralism is all about. The works of our thinkers need to be revisited and their books should form an integral part of our academia. Khayyam is described as an atheist, philosopher, and naturalist.

            The constant themes of Khayyam’s poetry are the certainty of death, the pointlessness of asking unanswerable questions, the mysteriousness of the universe, and the necessity of living joyfully the present. This is clearly reflected in the verses taken from Rubaiyat: “…How much more of the mosque, of prayer and fasting? Better go drunk and begging round the taverns. Khayyam, drinks wine, for soon this clay of yours will make a cup, bowl, one day a jar….”

            The Iranian Shirin Ebadi is another Nobel laureate suffering at the hands of the radicals. Shirin Abadi, Islam’s most famous civil rights activists and a Nobel Prize winner, said in her acceptance speech: “Allow me to say a little about my country, region, culture and faith. I am an Iranian. A descendent of Cyrus The Great. The Charter of Cyrus the Great is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights. I am a Muslim. In the Koran the Prophet of Islam has been cited as saying: “Thou shalt believe in thine faith and I in my religion”. That same divine book sees the mission of all prophets as that of inviting all human beings to uphold justice. Since the advent of Islam, Iran’s civilization and culture has become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and compromise and avoidance of violence, bloodshed and war. The luminaries of Iranian literature, in particular our Gnostic literature, from Hafiz, Mowlavi [better known in the West as Rumi] and Attar to Saadi, Sanaei, Naser Khosrow and Nezami, are emissaries of this humanitarian culture.”

            The dark ages within any civilization is characterized with dogmatic extremism that denies civil liberties, including freedom of religion and justice or the right to a fair trial. ‘Golden age’ on the other hand should be about the freedom of expression and availability of justice for the downtrodden. A society is judged not by its standards of the richest but by the way the under privileged and the poorest live. A minor renaissance within the regions under the influence of Islam can be traced but the conditions that help ‘seeds of reason’ to take roots that are essential for freethinking were just not allowed to be nurtured.

            Unfortuntely, in the current Arab world, the true values are rarely ever discussed freely. During the ‘Golden Age’ periods there was particularly strong tradition of rationalism known as the Mu3tazalah. They stressed that man is inherently free and were skeptic on the predestination concept that everything was foreordained. The Mu3tazilat carefully cultivated an ‘enlightened moderation’ and allowed for the growth of knowledge and actively promulgated the Sciences as a part of the religion doctrine.

            Muslim countries supply 70 per cent of the world’s energy requirements and 40 per cent of its raw material exports. With all of their oil wealth, two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in Muslim countries. This state of misery is unparalleled; Islam’s inability to translate its economic prowess into general good has baffled the intelligentsia of the world. In the last 20 years over one million people died in conflicts involving intra Muslim wars. Why are democracy and the rule of law nonexistent in most Moslim states? Why are most of the worst acts of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam? Whenever wicked fundamentalists have taken over reins of affairs they have gone for the jugular. Extremists have a single point agenda whereby ‘worldly decadence’ needs to be abolished for blessings and rewards in the after world. No devotion can gratify the extremists; every strain of deviancy over times has its own brand of virtuous approach; these anarchists at one point have inflicted devastation on embryonic societies of Islam.

            Renaissance cannot be tainted with colour of ideology, it cannot be “Islamic or Christian”,  it is a collective effort of minds to seek freedom from dogma and seek answers to complex questions of purpose of existence on this planet. Free thinking, logic and rationalism have to be the corner stone of any serious attempt to induce renaissance in the Islamic world. Pluralism of ideas and the prosperity of any land are intertwined. Freedom of minds and skill to ‘think the unthinkable’ is how humanity has progressed; when minds are incarcerated nothing endures.

            Renaissance within all three monolithic religions was built around norms of free mind; Renaissance was about literature, architecture, arts and chiseling of marble to exquisite forms. The statue of David could only be created by the love of the free labor of Michelangelo: an enslaved mind could never be an artist or a creator. Physically enslaved men with free minds led revolutions and changed the world: they were ready to accept death instead of compromise with totalitarian or dogmatic despotism.

            The first and foremost challenge that Islam has to face is freedom of intellectual enquiry, ability to ask the unthinkable and still be able to live in peace within a society. Prof. Ahmad Zewail’s use of the fast laser technique can be likened to Galilei’s use of his telescope that he directed towards everything that lit up the vault of heaven. Zewail tried his femtosecond laser on literally everything that moved in the world of molecules. He turned his telescope towards the frontiers of science. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry because he was the first to conduct experiments that clearly show the decisive moments in the life of a molecule – the breaking and formation of chemical bonds. He has been able to see the reality behind Arrhenius’ theory.

            Prof. Ahmad Zewail acceptance speech like Ebadi’s referred to his richness of twin civilisations that of Islam and Egypt; he said: “Let me begin with a reflection on a personal story, that of a voyage through time. The medal I received from his Majesty this evening was designed by Erik Lindberg in 1902 to represent Nature in the form of the Goddess Isis – or eesis – the Egyptian Goddess of Motherhood. She emerges from the clouds, holding a cornucopia in her arms and the veil which covers her cold and austere face is held up by the Genius of Science. Indeed, it is the genius of science which pushed forward the race against time, from the beginning of astronomical calendars six millennia ago in the land of Isis to the femtosecond regime honoured tonight for the ultimate achievement in the microcosmos. I began life and education in the same Land of Isis, Egypt, made the scientific unveiling in America, and tonight, I receive this honor in Sweden, with a Nobel Medal which takes me right back to the beginning. This internationalization by the Genius of Science is precisely what Mr. Nobel wished for more than a century ago.”

            Professor Ahmed H. Zewail, the only Arab to ever win a Nobel Prize for science and, since the death of the Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, the only one among the 1.2 billion Muslims with that honor.  Dr. Taha Hussein in his Nobel acceptance speech said: “The end will begin when seekers of knowledge become satisfied with their own achievements.” Unfortunately the embryonic renaissance in the late 700’s to 1300 of Islam was not extinguished by the satisfaction of its scientist’s queries; rather it was killed on the altar of dogma.

            Abdus Salam once wrote: “The Holy Koran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.” Sad and tragic is the reality that this scion of Pakistan was not allowed to be buried in his homeland; an orphaned son of a nation thanked the luminaries on behalf of a nation who had disowned him. In his acceptance speech Abdus Salam said: “… I thank the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Academy of Sciences for the great honor and the courtesies extended to us, including the courtesy to me of being addressed in my language Urdu. Pakistan is deeply indebted to you for this. The creation of Physics is the shared heritage of all mankind. East and West, North and South have equally participated in it. In the Holy Book of Islam, Allah says: ‘Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure. Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze comes back to thee dazzled and aweary.”

            On the global stage, it is these “heretical” scientists who are disowned by the Moslem orthodox clergy who have earned the greatest respect for Islam. Historically, we have distorted our real heroes into heretics, and the witch-hunt still continues. Dr. Abdus Salam is not the only one treated as heretic; we have the modern rationalist, Naguib Mahfouz – Nobel laureate in literature. Citation of his work, ‘Awlad Haratina,’ in the Swedish Academy’s declaration of award of the Nobel Prize to Mahfouz in 1988 greatly angered the Islamicists. His novel appeared in English under the title, “The Children of Gebelawi.” Shortly after the eruption of the Rushdie affair, the leading fundamentalist, Omar Abd al-Rahman currently imprisoned in the US for his role in the attack on the World Trade Centre—declared that if they had killed Mahfouz in 1959 for writing ‘The Children of Our Alley,’ Rushdie would never have dared write his novel. This was taken as a fresh fatwa to kill Mahfouz.

            In 1994 a failed attempt on his life leaft Mahfouz paralysed in his right arm. The crime of association of present day heroes of Islam with their past intellectual ancestors has marginalised them. It was the same Mahfouz who presented the case of his twin civilisations so adequately in the forum of ‘Swedish academy of sciences’ and quoted the great Muslim rationalist poet Abul-‘Alaa’ Ma’ari who asserted everywhere “the rights of reason against the claims of custom, tradition and authority.”

            The world cannot remain hostage to medieval concepts; this modern fight has to be seen in its intellectual, historical and geographical context.  The Islamic world today is trying to re-ignite its lost “renaissance” but is led by demented people with medieval minds; they are supposed to cure our ills but are out in the open to slaughter and maim thousands. Respect of life is the first sign of an educated mind.

            The Arabic language was synonymous with learning and science for 500 hundred years; a golden age that can count among its credits the precursors to modern universities, algebra, and the names of the stars and even the notion of science as an empirical inquiry. Science flourished in the Golden Age of Islam because there was within Islam a strong rational tradition of inquiry. This tradition stressed human free will.  Under the Mut3azalah (enlightened moderation) knowledge grew. Moslim conventional Puritanism, led by Ghazali, reawakened in the twelfth century.  The Moslem puritans championed revelation over reason, predestination over free will. The Imam Ghazali described mathematics and medicine as (Fard-E-Kefaya) placing these knowledge secondary to religious knowledge.

            A few Islamic clergies are trying to introduce elements of bigotry and fanaticism in mainstream Islamic thought. Our modern day laureates depict equally a sense of great connectivity to the rich past and that has to become a standard. Most likely the Islamic Renaissance that was about to be born 1000 years ago did not. We shall never know the extent of the harm that some celebrated religious zealots caused to mankind and civilization. We are once again at the crossroads; the only ways forward is to connect with the world and help make ours a true charitable society, the only way prosperity of mind can be ensured is through pluralism of ideas.

Reactions to “Why the Arab World is not free?” (July 10, 2009)

I decided to post a reply to my book review “Why the Arab World is not free?” by Moustapha Safouan

“I am the son of two civilizations that have formed a happy marriage. The first civilization is 7 thousand years old of Pharaonic Egypt; the second is Islamic of one thousand four hundred years old.  One day the great Pyramids will disappear but Truth and Justice will remain for as long as Mankind has a reflective mind and a living conscience.

A Moslim Caliph returned prisoners of war to the Byzantium Empire in exchange of ancient Greek manuscripts in philosophy, medicine and mathematics. This is a testimony of value for the human spirit in its demand for knowledge; the believer in One God demanded the fruits of a pagan civilization.

It was my fate to be born in the lap of these two civilizations and to feed on their literature and art. The truth of the matter is that Evil is a loud and boisterous debaucherer, and that Man remembers what hurts more than what gives pleasure. Our great poet Abul-‘Alaa’ Ma’ari was right when he said: “A grief at the hour of death is more than a hundred-fold Joy at the hour of birth.”

When the Moslem’s Armies extended their territories from Spain to current Pakistan, they took possession of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and other Greek thinkers.

One of the prime reasons attributed to Moslims’ intellectual enhancement in the Middle Ages is the considerable influence of Greek philosophy to a rational new religion.

Up to the nineth century Muslim intellectuals valued reason in their interpretation of the Koran and Hadith.  Our present day Moslem heroes associate with the rational past.

In early Islam there was a philosophical debate that started with al-Ghazali and resumed by Ibn Rushd that led the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II (1451-1481), the conqueror of the Capital Byzantium, to order two of the Empire’ scholars to compile books to summarize the debate between Ghazali and Ibn Rushd.

The philosophy of al-Ghazali was attacking the ideas of Avicenna or Ibn Sina (980-1037) and Farabi who were inspired by Aristotle, Plato, and Plotinus.

Avicenna is known as al-Sheikh Rais (Leader among the wise men); in the west, he is also known as the “Prince of Physicians” for his famous medical text Qanun “Canon”. In Latin translations, his works influenced many Christian philosophers, most notably Thomas Aquinas.

The spread of Hellenistic philosophy in the Moslim world was expounded by the first Arabic philosopher Kindi (800-865) who wrote many works on Greek science and philosophy. As a mathematician Kindi realized the importance of Aristotelian logic. Farabi’s ideal rulers would be chosen for their intelligence and educated in science, philosophy, and religion.

According to Farabi, the best ruler for this Muslim state would be a “philosopher-king“, a concept described in Plato’s Republic. One of the most important contributions of Farabi, beyond his political views and scientific philosophies, was to make the study of logic easier by dividing it into two categories – Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof). He wrote several sociological books, including his famous work – Al-Madina al-Fadila (The Model City). 

In Andalusia (Spain) Ibn Rushd commented on Al Ghazali, argument by argument, defending the power of rational and investigative thinking; his work became the foundation for Europe Renaissance in understanding Aristotle.

This part of history needs to be written; there are no takers yet. Orthodoxy in Islam rarely allows the treatise of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037), Kindi (800-865) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) to become the syllabus of mainstream thought process.  A Moslem student might revere Avicenna and Averroes but he is not offered the opportunity to read their works.

If Avicenna and Averroes’s thinking were part of the dialogue within Islam then the sun of the golden era would have never set. We cannot cite Khayyam as an example of a great poet and completely forget the message he gave. We may disagree with Khayyam, but introducing his thinking will help us to determine what pluralism is all about.

The works of our thinkers need to be revisited and their books should form an integral part of our academia. Khayyam is described as an atheist, philosopher, and naturalist.

The constant themes of Khayyam’s poetry are the certainty of death, the pointlessness of asking unanswerable questions, the mysteriousness of the universe, and the necessity of living joyfully the present. This is clearly reflected in the verses taken from Rubaiyat: “…How much more of the mosque, of prayer and fasting? Better go drunk and begging round the taverns. Khayyam, drinks wine, for soon this clay of yours will make a cup, bowl, one day a jar….”

The Iranian Shirin Ebadi (Abadi) is another Nobel laureate suffering at the hands of the radicals. Shirin Abadi, Islam’s most famous civil rights activists and a Nobel Prize winner, said in her acceptance speech:

“Allow me to say a little about my country, region, culture and faith. I am an Iranian. A descendent of Cyrus The Great. The Charter of Cyrus the Great is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights. I am a Muslim. In the Koran the Prophet of Islam has been cited as saying: “Thou shalt believe in thine faith and I in my religion”. That same divine book sees the mission of all prophets as that of inviting all human beings to uphold justice. Since the advent of Islam, Iran’s civilization and culture has become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and compromise and avoidance of violence, bloodshed and war. The luminaries of Iranian literature, in particular our Gnostic literature, from Hafiz, Mowlavi [better known in the West as Rumi] and Attar to Saadi, Sanaei, Naser Khosrow and Nezami, are emissaries of this humanitarian culture.”

The dark ages within any civilization is characterized with dogmatic extremism that denies civil liberties, including freedom of religion and justice or the right to a fair trial. ‘Golden age’ on the other hand should be about the freedom of expression and availability of justice for the downtrodden. A society is judged not by its standards of the richest but by the way the under privileged and the poorest live.

A minor renaissance within the regions under the influence of Islam can be traced, but the conditions that help ‘seeds of reason’ to take roots that are essential for freethinking were just not allowed to be nurtured.

Unfortunately, in the current Arab world, the true values are rarely ever discussed freely. During the ‘Golden Age’ periods there was particularly strong tradition of rationalism known as the Mu3tazalah. They stressed that man is inherently free and were skeptic on the predestination concept that everything was foreordained. The Mutazilites carefully cultivated an ‘enlightened moderation’ and allowed for the growth of knowledge and actively promulgated the Sciences as a part of the religion doctrine.

Muslim countries supply 70% of the world’s energy requirements and 40% of its raw material exports. With all of their oil wealth, two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in Muslim countries.

This state of misery is unparalleled; Islam’s inability to translate its economic prowess into general good has baffled the intelligentsia of the world. In the last 20 years over one million people died in conflicts involving intra Muslim wars.

Why are democracy and the rule of law nonexistent in most Moslim states?

Why are most of the worst acts of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam?

Whenever wicked fundamentalists have taken over reins of affairs they have gone for the jugular. Extremists have a single point agenda whereby ‘worldly decadence’ needs to be abolished for blessings and rewards in the after world.

No devotion can gratify the extremists; every strain of deviancy over times has its own brand of virtuous approach; these anarchists at one point have inflicted devastation on embryonic societies of Islam.

            Renaissance cannot be tainted with colour of ideology, it cannot be ‘Islamic or Christian,’ it is collective effort of minds to seek freedom from dogma and seek answers to complex questions of purpose of existence on this planet. Free thinking, logic and rationalism have to be the corner stone of any serious attempt to induce renaissance in the Islamic world. Pluralism of ideas and the prosperity of any land are intertwined. Freedom of minds and skill to ‘think the unthinkable’ is how humanity has progressed; when minds are incarcerated nothing endures.

Renaissance within all three monolithic religions was built around norms of free mind; Renaissance was about literature, architecture, arts and chiseling of marble to exquisite forms. The statue of David could only be created by the love of the free labor of Michelangelo: an enslaved mind could never be an artist or a creator. Physically enslaved men with free minds led revolutions and changed the world: they were ready to accept death instead of compromise with totalitarian or dogmatic despotism.

The first and foremost challenge that Islam has to face is freedom of intellectual enquiry, ability to ask the unthinkable and still be able to live in peace within a society.

Prof. Ahmad Zewail‘s use of the fast laser technique can be likened to Galilei’s use of his telescope that he directed towards everything that lit up the vault of heaven. Zewail tried his femtosecond laser on literally everything that moved in the world of molecules. He turned his telescope towards the frontiers of science. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry because he was the first to conduct experiments that clearly show the decisive moments in the life of a molecule – the breaking and formation of chemical bonds. He has been able to see the reality behind Arrhenius’ theory.

Prof. Ahmad Zewail acceptance speech, like Ebadi’s, referred to his richness of twin civilisations that of Islam and Egypt. He said:

Let me begin with a reflection on a personal story, that of a voyage through time. The medal I received from his Majesty this evening was designed by Erik Lindberg in 1902 to represent Nature in the form of the Goddess Isis – or eesis – the Egyptian Goddess of Motherhood. She emerges from the clouds, holding a cornucopia in her arms and the veil which covers her cold and austere face is held up by the Genius of Science. Indeed, it is the genius of science which pushed forward the race against time, from the beginning of astronomical calendars six millennia ago in the land of Isis to the femtosecond regime honoured tonight for the ultimate achievement in the microcosmos. I began life and education in the same Land of Isis, Egypt, made the scientific unveiling in America, and tonight, I receive this honor in Sweden, with a Nobel Medal which takes me right back to the beginning. This internationalization by the Genius of Science is precisely what Mr. Nobel wished for more than a century ago.”

Professor Ahmed H. Zewail, the only Arab to ever win a Nobel Prize for science and, since the death of the Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, the only one among the 1.2 billion Muslims with that honor.

Dr. Taha Hussein in his Nobel acceptance speech said: “The end will begin when seekers of knowledge become satisfied with their own achievements.

Unfortunately the embryonic renaissance in the late 700’s to 1300 of Islam was not extinguished by the satisfaction of its scientist’s queries; rather it was killed on the altar of dogma.

Abdus Salam once wrote:

“The Holy Koran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.”

Sad and tragic is the reality that this scion of Pakistan was not allowed to be buried in his homeland; an orphaned son of a nation thanked the luminaries on behalf of a nation who had disowned him. In his acceptance speech Abdus Salam said: “… I thank the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Academy of Sciences for the great honor and the courtesies extended to us, including the courtesy to me of being addressed in my language Urdu. Pakistan is deeply indebted to you for this. The creation of Physics is the shared heritage of all mankind. East and West, North and South have equally participated in it.

In the Holy Book of Islam, Allah says: ‘Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure. Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze, Comes back to thee dazzled and aweary.”

On the global stage, it is these “heretical” scientists who are disowned by the Moslem orthodox clergy who have earned the greatest respect for Islam. Historically, we have distorted our real heroes into heretics, and the witch-hunt still continues. Dr. Abdus Salam is not the only one treated as heretic; we have the modern rationalist, Naguib Mahfouz – Nobel laureate in literature. Citation of his work, ‘Awlad Haratina,’ in the Swedish Academy’s declaration of award of the Nobel Prize to Mahfouz in 1988 greatly angered the Islamicists.

His novel appeared in English under the title, “The Children of Gebelawi.” Shortly after the eruption of the Rushdie affair, the leading fundamentalist, Omar Abd al-Rahman currently imprisoned in the US for his role in the attack on the World Trade Centre—declared that if they had killed Mahfouz in 1959 for writing ‘The Children of Our Alley,’ Rushdie would never have dared write his novel. This was taken as a fresh fatwa to kill Mahfouz.

In 1994 a failed attempt on his life leaft Mahfouz paralysed in his right arm. The crime of association of present day heroes of Islam with their past intellectual ancestors has marginalised them. It was the same Mahfouz who presented the case of his twin civilisations so adequately in the forum of ‘Swedish academy of sciences’ and quoted the great Muslim rationalist poet Abul-‘Alaa’ Ma’ari who asserted everywhere “the rights of reason against the claims of custom, tradition and authority.”

The world cannot remain hostage to medieval concepts; this modern fight has to be seen in its intellectual, historical and geographical context.  The Islamic world today is trying to re-ignite its lost “renaissance” but is led by demented people with medieval minds; they are supposed to cure our ills but are out in the open to slaughter and maim thousands. Respect of life is the first sign of an educated mind.

The Arabic language was synonymous with learning and science for 500 hundred years; a golden age that can count among its credits the precursors to modern universities, algebra, and the names of the stars and even the notion of science as an empirical inquiry. Science flourished in the Golden Age of Islam because there was within Islam a strong rational tradition of inquiry.

This tradition stressed human free will.  Under the Mut3azalah (enlightened moderation) knowledge grew. Moslim conventional Puritanism, led by Ghazali, reawakened in the twelfth century.  The Moslem puritans championed revelation over reason, predestination over free will. The Imam Ghazali described mathematics and medicine as (Fard-E-Kefaya) placing these knowledge secondary to religious knowledge.

A few Islamic clergies are trying to introduce elements of bigotry and fanaticism in mainstream Islamic thought. Our modern day laureates depict equally a sense of great connectivity to the rich past and that has to become a standard. Most likely the Islamic Renaissance that was about to be born 1000 years ago did not. We shall never know the extent of the harm that some celebrated religious zealots caused to mankind and civilization.

We are once again at the crossroads; the only ways forward is to connect with the world and help make ours a true charitable society, the only way prosperity of mind can be ensured is through pluralism of ideas.


adonis49

adonis49

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