Islam, which comes from the same root as the word for peace, continues to be perceived as a religion that condones–even encourages–violence. It is also seen by many as a static and rigid faith with no room for discussion or change. Both of these assumptions, which stem from longstanding stereotypes of the Middle East and Islam, were reinforced with the terrorist actions on 9/11. What troubles me (and many others) about these assumptions is that–from my own understanding of the Prophet Muhammad–kindness and justice were central to dealing with others, whether Muslim or not. The Qur’an, considered by Muslims to be the literal word of God revealed to the Prophet, is replete with verses that instruct believers how to engage with the other with justice and fairness. While returning an unjust action against you is allowed (providing it is in the exact same measure), it is better in the eyes of God to forgive. How many times is this last message lost in all the noise around Islam? Continue reading
Did you know that the Islamic empire and its scientists were once at the forefront of scientific development? Or that many of the things we take for granted like glasses, which depend on an understanding of optics, have their roots in the Islamic empire? Some history books might mention the fact that many of the ancient Greek texts were translated into Arabic and then into European languages. But the Arabs were more than mere translators of texts; they reflected on the material, argued with it, and added their own contributions. So, the assumption that the scientists, philosophers, and translators of the Islamic empire were simply the vessels by which the Western world was brought out of the dark ages needs to be questioned. The contributions of Islam and its empire are often forgotten with the focus being solely on how Islam is so ‘different’ and ‘antithetical’ to the modern world. How can that be possible when at one time Islam and science enjoyed a relationship that Christianity rejected? The Islamic empire fostered a spirit of inquiry that advanced the world’s knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and philosophy.
In the Inside Islam Radio series, we would like to explore the history of Islam and Science. These are a few questions we would like to answer: What have we ignored about the contributions of the Islamic empire to science? Why were these contributions ignored? Why was there a decline in the Muslim world after such a glorious past? What is the role of science today in the Muslim world? Can science be a place for interfaith dialogues? If you have questions to add or suggestions for this show, please share them below.
How many people who study Arabic now realize its importance in the Muslim worldview and the complexity of the language situation in the Muslim community worldwide? Arabic, the classical form of the language, is the language of the Qur’an. When Muslims from all over the world recite the Qur’an, they do it in Arabic. Since the classical form of Arabic is a liturgical language, many Muslims will study it on some level in order to pray and read the Qur’an itself and other Islamic texts. In the Arabic-speaking countries of the world, in addition to the religious realm, the standard form of the language continues to be the language of poetry, much of the literature, news, and basically anything formal. While there are spoken forms of Arabic that are specific to each country and even city, many people hold the standard form of Arabic in high esteem because of its connection to the Qur’an. In some Arab countries, writers who push to use the colloquial form of Arabic in the place of standard Arabic face a challenge because of the connection that the latter has to the Qur’an. Continue reading