Retrospective Today!

Aga Khan University Hospital hosted a lecture on ‘A journey back in the time – The glorious centuries of Muslim Rule’ by Dr. Iftikhar Salahuddin. Dr. Saheb discussed the rise and decline of Ummayids and Abbasids and emphasized on the sad course of oblivion in Muslims today. The lectures briefly touched upon the magnificent monuments and contributions in philosophy by prominent figures like Al-Kindi, Al-Ghazali, Ibn-e-Sina naming a few. Ms. Fatima Suriya Bajiya ki wah wah ne mahol aur acha kardiya.

The major criticism was that he didn’t include the biggest contributions by Fatimids. Rather a very childish and ill-informed comment was made by Dr. Saheb on one of the leaders of Fatimids which was then largely clarified to him by the audience and they deserve a kudos for it. This shows a great appetite for knowledge and respect by all. Ethical values have been the major backbone of Islamic Glory and selfish-indulgence has been one of the reasons for decline.

One of the most important suggestions made in Question and Answer session was that we should now move away from the approach of looking Islamic contributions in sectarian or communal view, rather we should inquire it in the spirit of knowledge and then such remarks would always be avoided.

Great effort by Aga Khan University as always (Abida Parveen, Karen Armstrong, Sheema Kermani, Nahid Siddiqui and a lot more guests have been part of such lectures previously). Though the speaker didn’t come up to the marks for me at least but then it is a personal view. On the whole, he best thing was that both audience and speaker got to learn something from each other this time in a big way.

26 Comments so far

  1. kaami on February 13th, 2009 @ 1:52 am

    Before I comment on this just need some explanation on the following line:

    Ethical values have been the major backbone of Islamic Glory and selfish-indulgence has been one of the reasons for decline.

    Can you please elaborate furhter?……

  2. Raheel Lakhani (raheel07) on February 13th, 2009 @ 2:33 am

    Selfish Indulgence as it was also quoted in the lectures that leaders went into vices and wine. From my point of view, one of the several reason might be, when either leaders were only thinking about themselves or when there is lacking in ethical conscience and strong hold on their philosophy of religion, it became tough to walk along the vision.

  3. kaami on February 13th, 2009 @ 3:23 am

    I dont know what vision you are talking about? equally not sure about what you mean when you say "strong hold on their philosophy of religion".

    However its an interesting topic and the weekend is coming up…..I’ll surely post another comment.

  4. barrister on February 13th, 2009 @ 4:54 am

    Bull Shit. I do not why we as a nation (if there’s one) distort history. The truth is that there has never been any “glorious centuries of Muslim Rule”…

    I- Muslims have never been united under one Caliphate
    II- Muslims never lived under Khilafah (obviously, the “Mesaq-e-Medina” is an exception and the idea died after Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) death.

    I find it laughable when the Jamaati-Types links the success of “Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, Writers with Islam..why can’t we just accept that most of the scientists were actually “agnostic” and folks like Razi, Avicenna and Omar Khayam were not what we call, “orthodox believers” and that if you consider those times “golden” you are a fool. Most of the Muslim Scientists prospered in Muslim Spain ( a secular society ) where Jews were given State Protection …instead of being persecuted and scientific theories encouraged where as the Church opposed and prosecuted scientists and researchers …it was more about free thinking then anything else..religion didn’t play a part…..

  5. بستنی (wasiq) on February 13th, 2009 @ 9:28 am

    @Barrister sab….arz kiya hai…

    Nishter chaley kissi pey tardap tey hain hum ameer
    aap khalifa ko ley aaay kya mera shave ziyada berdh giya hai…!

    @raheel sab….you have written DR for bajiya….?that’s a first for me…plus its bajiya or bajia and not…lol

  6. Raheel Lakhani (raheel07) on February 13th, 2009 @ 10:36 am

    kaami, vision is the benefit of a collective self for me. we cannot have a black and white answer for it.

    barrister, I solely disagree. Why should Muslims live under one caliphate? It is about collective self rather than a leader, the idea of Simergh given by Iqbal. The problem has that we haven’t been generous enough to cling upon the concept of diversity and pluralism and therefore created a myopic and unpractical view of unity. Does it only started from Spain is the question? Is living with Jews any problem? And does it make a scientist non-religious? Moreover do you think the spirit of inquiry isn’t compatible with Islam or are we just afraid to do so? Tough questions. Btw Ibn-e-Sina’s philosophy wasn’t agnostic for sure.

    Science has branched itself out of religion, and there is a philosophy underlining every discipline. If we stop thinking about unnecessary things like we should live with Jews then we might get back to work like those dynasties did in form of literature, philosophy, arts and sciences. We have completely ignored social sciences and humanities out of our fabric and science hum ko tou aati nahi, shayad us time ke hisab se Ibn-e-Sina ko zyada aati thi :p I know there has been propaganda on both sides but removing such hatred would create a better world for sure. Islam is always about maintaining good relations, not only inspiring other but also learning from others. Kab tak hum isolated rahein ge. Koi spoon feeding nahi kare mere bhai, we have to take the first step. This is my point of view, you can have yours which is also respected. Thanks.

    wasiq, thanks for pointing the bajiya error, has been corrected. As far as Dr. is concerned my mistake. It was supposed to be Ms.

  7. بستنی (wasiq) on February 13th, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

    @Raheel sab…thankyou sir.

  8. barrister on February 13th, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

    Mian, Diversity is important; agreed. I was mentioning about this distortion of history and how Mullah(s) potray 800 A.D to 1400 A.D as Golden Years where everything was “perfect”.

    There are really two issues here.
    1. How religious fanatics tend to cite past achievements as model for future success…
    2. Why should achievements by a nation or an ethnic group be construed as achievements by a religion?

    The “lubaylubab” of the discussion is that just like in (Balma Bhai has point this out in a different post) India, Hinduvta followers are busy redefining the Indian history in the same vain. They are also talking about some obscure achievements thousands of years ago to reassert their religious beliefs. Hinduvata following RSS/BJP or Islamic fundamentalists like JI are using the same tactics for sometime now to hoodwink people.
    Religions are just a part of social fabric of a society and are not the motivating factor for scientific or other intellectual achievements by mankind.

    And then definition of Golden Age of Islam varies. To me Golden Age is where there’s freedom of expression, tolerance, prosperity and peace …and if you take those as bench mark then post-World War Two Scenario should be considered Golden Age of Islam as oppose to the times of Saladin since it’s only after the war, most Muslim/Islamic (there’s a difference) countries got there freedom from colonial rule. This was the time when Middle East became rich; Pakistan was carved out; Indonasia became independent etc…etc..

    Fundamentalists no matter what religion they profess, have a need to elevate their mediocre political ideologies and relate them to some obscure achievements in the past simply to gain emotional tie-ins with the general population.

  9. Adnan Siddiqi (adnansiddiqi) on February 14th, 2009 @ 1:31 am

    As far as Dr. is concerned my mistake. It was supposed to be Ms.

    Arz kia hay:

    ek nuqta ne Mahram ko Mujrim Banadia
    wo dua karta rahay hum Dagha parthe gaye

  10. fasee on February 15th, 2009 @ 11:36 am

    wow…the sterotypical mullahs are getting a reality check of sorts here……so i guess its about time some gerneades in shape of fatwas of being infield are about to be hurled this way…:P

  11. بستنی (wasiq) on February 15th, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

    @Raheel sab…thankyou sir.

  12. Raheel Lakhani (raheel07) on February 15th, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

    Barrister, I agree some groups might present those facts which are itself distorted but it would be wrong if we say those actual achievements or at least their spirit was in vain. Here we have to see the politics of meaning. Nation States itself is a big controversial topic because they completely negate the cultural diversity. We shouldn’t end up giving a simplistic view. It is not about replicating those achievements but finding inspiration from it, of the religion on rational and scientific spirit and not the war ways. Interpretation of Cultures by Clifford Geertz is a wonderful book which connects a lot of cultural aspects – not linked directly to Islam but yes his social scientific theory is from which I have concluded the discussion of how cultural is dependent on various elements for myself.

    "One of the most important suggestions made in Question and Answer session was that we should now move away from the approach of looking Islamic contributions in sectarian or communal view, rather we should inquire it in the spirit of knowledge and then such remarks would always be avoided." – This was a consensus in audience’s point of view so somewhat your idea is also included here :)

  13. kaami on February 16th, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

    The questions that I raised earlier were due to a reason. Islam did manage to unite the nomadic Arabs and soon the decaying empires of Syria and Persia fell prey to them. But as it has always happened in history that when an inferior culture conquers a more advanced society there is a rubbing off effect. While they conquered they also fell in love with Greek philosophy, scientific pursuit and fine vine. These three factors may be attributed to their rise rather than decline as the orthodox will lead us to believe.

    So what part did religion play in the ascend and descend of Ummayyads, Hashmia (Abbasid’s) and the second Ummayyad dynasty of Undlus? The answer for me would be, very little. They were dynasties like any other founded on murder, intrigue, conquest and using religion for the justification of autholrity.

    Let’s look at First Ummayyad’s, a dynasty founded on murder and persecution, which collected jazia from even converted muslims, encouraged enslavement and promoted Arab racism, in which they were deemed themselves superior to other races.

    When Abbsid’s defeated the Umayyad’s, they made sure to kill all of the rival clan, even the graves were dug open. However, just one survived and fled to Spain to form the Second Umayyad dynasty.

    Now the golden period, both Abbasid of Baghdad and Andalusian’s, though rivals, but at their peak we see a great outburst of rationalism, pluralism and scientific enterprise. The greats of their era like Ibn Rushd, Ibn Khaldun, Al-Kindi, Al-Razi and Ibn-e-Sina challenged conventional wisdom and presented their own God hypothesis. Consequently, they were subjected to persecution. In 12th century Undalusian society greats like Ibn Rushd, Maimonide (the Jew) and a Christain thinker ( Sorry I forgot his name) co-existed and were the best of friends. The irony that the orthodxy in their respective communities turned against them, labelling them as headens and burning their books.

    This book burning of the works by greats continued in the centuries that followed, although their writings in Medicine were spared but most of their philophical work is lost,including half of Ibn Sina’s writings.

    So what was the cause of decline, was it intellectual pursuit drifting them away from religion? or was it fine vine? In my opinion none of the above, here is my take:

    All of the aforementioned dynasties failed miserably, when it came to development of political institutions and the question of accession to the throne. Unlike the Europeans where the eldest son had first claim to the throne. in the case of Arab dynasties it was not clearly defined. So when it came to transition, the hundreds of wives and londi’s bearing sons to the Caliph, believed that their brood was the most deserving. So almost every time, there was civil war, brother killing brother, uncle killing nephew, poisoning and exile. Consequently, damaging the state.

    In the case of Abbasids, they lost control when they recruited Turks in their millitary. The power of Tukish Commanders grew rapidly, soon they dictated who should be the Caliph, The Caliph’s who tried to break the the shackles were murdered, even the capital was shifted to Samarah (Turkish Garrison Town) and Arab-Turkish resentment grew by the day. Then there was "Zanj" rebellion by the Black Slaves, which lasted 14-16 years and severely demaged the economy. And ofcourse, there was the Shia-Sunni rivalry, which became apparent when Mongols came calling. Sadly, when the mongols set about massacring millions in Baghdad, they had no way to know who was Shia and who was Sunni.

    Andalusian’s had the similar fate, they had their share of harem intrigues and prior to Ferdenand, the damage was done by the fanatical Muslim Group of Al-Mohads from North Africa. They engaged in mass murder and were ruthless, particularly towards non-muslims and triggered the mass exodus of Christians, destroying the Muslim culture and civilization based on pluralism, that took centuries to evolve. As a result the state fragmented into individual fiefdoms. According to Erna Paris, "The arrival of Al-Mohads marked the end of an era. The bright light of Cordoba flickered and went out like a dying star, never to shine again."

    There are some obvious lessons to be learned here.

    As for your assertion that Science branching out of religion. I disagree, but that debate i guess will be out of scope.

    However, What I appreciate is, your style of reasoning, your articulation and obvious intellect. Indeed your postings are a breath of fresh air.

  14. barrister on February 16th, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

    Just to point out. The religion is not based on any so called “scholars “ and vice-versa. Scholars opinions are based on their upbringing (their culture etc…) if they are revered the people who revere them`s opinion is also based on the same things. Please don`t confuse religion with culture. Hindus burn widows with their husbands and husbands are considered gods, Christianity has been known for witchhunting. So distuigish between religion and culture and don’t try to paint everything “religiously”.

    BTW, it would be interesting to see views of “Mawdudists” on Dr.Adbul Salam achievements since he was from the Ahmediya Fiq..LOL …

    As for the myth about “Unity of Muslims” , KAMI bhai has put forward excellent historic observations. If there would have been unification we would have had a Pan-Islamic Super State….

    lets take this example, suppose couple of hundred years ago Mr.Ahmed & Mr.Raheel (examples) are multi-billionares and are among the top scientists;Would that mean that the Muslim civilization has been successful or has it failed?

    Why paint indivisual success as “Religious” success…!!! Jinnah Sahib’s grand father was hindu ; Alama Iqbal’s father converted to Islam (forced too by the then Afghan Governor of King) …did the conversion of religion made increased there IQ level……? No! On average, it would seem Muslims (you and I) are the brightest people in the world. But as a group, we would have failed, since our civilization would be extinct after us.

    As for the myth of glorious past? If I buy the argument that we indeed had a “glorious past…!!! Then, Why did that fade away? Was that glorious past a product of intense interaction with past civilizations like China, India? Why did the free flow of thought and ideas suddenly stop in the Islamic world?A simplistic answer would be: Western dominance and colonization. But China and India too underwent dominance and colonization by the western powers but they seem to be slowly emerging out of the darkness. Why is Islamic world still in darkness despite having abundance of natural resources, the most precious of them being oil?

  15. Ali (retroguy02) on February 17th, 2009 @ 7:06 am

    Good… and where are we Muslims now. And why? Selfish-indulgence? In today’s modern perspective, I think that the reason for the Muslims’ demise are fanatics who split up the entire religion. Seriously, why can’t we agree upon a middle ground?

  16. fasee on February 17th, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

    i asked a lawyer about the ills of our ummah.

    woh bola….Izzat maa’aab, janab, hazrat Iftikhar chourdry sahab ko wapis a janay do….sab malsay theek ho jain gay.

    CHIEF teray janisaar……beshumaar beshumaar…:P:P:P

  17. barrister on February 17th, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

    fasee, LOL.."bc" that was awesome! some people are just aloof! good one…

    retroguy, true, true…!!!!!!! I agree on a middle ground…if we just stop this "ran-di-ro’na" about Iftikhar Chaudry, Long Marach and Making this State Islamic Emirates of Pakistan we could progress – our greatest threat ofcourse is Talibanization of Society….

  18. balma on February 17th, 2009 @ 11:40 pm

    I guess let me say this in one sentence:
    People who look, think, read, write, walk like today’s mullah types had no contribution to science and technology; never.

  19. Raheel Lakhani (raheel07) on February 20th, 2009 @ 12:41 am

    Kaami, I am impressed by your observations.

    Barrister, For me every individual is part of society so actually individuals are the ones who make and inspire societies. We also need to know that these people weren’t just scientists. Fragmentation is one of the biggest evils of the new times. These people had well-rounded personalities and had diverse interest from medicine, science, arts to philosophy. Religion at that time was prime motivation as today we may say state has. So in a way that person followed a religion, a life philosophy so his achievements would be associated with that religion and society. You cannot throw away the bond that easily that people exercise over thing. Every thing doesn’t have to be logical, it can be meaningful too.

    For me Religion(even atheism) shapes your world view which then reflects in your ethos(character, rituals and symbols. Ethos are part of culture so I agree cultural has influence of a lot of things and not only limited to religion.

  20. بستنی (wasiq) on February 21st, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

    @Raheel sab…..sir can you help get me an enterance card for the universe cineplex….they don’t allow loners like me….my family donot watch movies…they say Laholla wala quwat…when ever i express my wish….i will sign an affidavit for all my inactions after i get in the theatre….i ll be much obliged…!thank you.

  21. fasee on February 21st, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

    wasiq shedding his beard for the spoils of the westren shayateen.

    cineplex mian ja ker na-mehramoon ko dekhna gunah hai…

    stay content watching the korangi ki sanwali blondes in tight jeans.


  22. بستنی (wasiq) on February 21st, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

    yeah kis kafir ney kaha kay western…..sunna hai its very cooool inside…bahir bahut garm hoti hai….teen ghantay nahein dekh sakta…!

  23. fasee on February 22nd, 2009 @ 12:26 am

    bahar hi garm hoti hai phir tu islam ko koi khatra nahee…

    ander bhi garam hu tu hum pakistanion ka iman itna kamzoor rehta hai ke koi bili bhi guzar jai tu mullah ke peet mian dard hota hai e islam ko khatra hu giya hai.

    yeh baat hai tu ik nahe do do pass arange kero..mujhay bhi grmi buhat lagti hai…kab tak baraf dukan say khared khared ker use karoon

  24. بستنی (wasiq) on February 22nd, 2009 @ 8:32 am

    khuda kay lian toh mein dekhta nahein houn….han lux wala emaan toh bahut mazboot hai…iss saal thunder storm bhi nahein aaya…mustafa sab zindabad…mustafa sab….

    aap toh mashaAllah family wala sharif lagtey ho….main nahein lagta…ouper sey everytime there is a new chap…at the security….i hate eye scan for identification….iss lian i requested a card.

    @security wali…khattey angooroun kay lalach main tou ney chaman haath se nikalwa diya….dubai main miltey hain.

  25. Raheel Lakhani (raheel07) on February 22nd, 2009 @ 8:37 am

    wasiq miyan aap ko apna khud ka blog kholne ki ashat zaroorat hai kripiya es pe jaldi amal karein.

  26. بستنی (wasiq) on February 22nd, 2009 @ 8:43 am

    aap kay ka kya khayal hai…?

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