When His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal was thinking of establishing an Islamic think tank, he sent me his paper on Science and Religion. I wrote back to him on 24 August 2000 thus.
‘I am grateful to you for sending me your paper on Science and Religion. While it is true that science deals with what is verifiable, and rightly so, I regret to say that I cannot agree with your statement that Islam is one religion that has never had a quarrel with science.
It is a pity that like theologians of old, Your Highness also appears to be emphasizing not only the limitations, but also the dangers of science. It is this attitude which did not allow the Saracens, Sahranashin Muslims, to benefit from the greatest human achievements in the field of arts and science. They inherited these when they vanquished two of the greatest empires, the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) and the Sassanian (Persian Empire), became heirs to Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek art and sciences, and made contact with the Indians and Chinese. They moved toward an increasingly theologically enclosed culture that could no longer promote original scientific research. Not only were natural sciences spurned and labelled as foreign, but they also renounced the fine arts. I have discussed this in the first chapter of my book on ‘Muslim Painting’, which is enclosed.
May I also suggest that what Your Highness calls purpose in Islam is Jihad, and to be a Ghazi or Shaheed, and to sacrifice any number of human lives to achieve God’s purpose. Muslims do not have moral values, which are based on secular belief in man as a measure, which are a product of heathen western humanism. Your Highness correctly states that Darwinism was rejected and condemned by some in the West, but Darwin was neither imprisoned nor tortured nor killed.
I believe that unless we face and speak the truth about ourselves we cannot even begin to get out of the mire in which we have landed ourselves.’
I received His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal’s reply on 2nd September 2000 from Majlis El Hasan, Amman, Jordan, amd among other things, he said, ‘There are several reasons for the decline of Muslim science and technology starting in the fourteenth century. Economic factors are supreme and the role of theology is minimal.’ I realized that despite his expensive English education in Europe he was focused on the Saracens and had no knowledge of the economic and military power, and opulence and splendor of Muslim empires based on Samarkand, Herat, Istanbul, Isfahan and Delhi during the 14th. 15th, 16th and 17th centuries under Mughals, Timurids, Ottomans and Safawids, and how they were thwarted by Islamic theology from modernization.
I therefore sent him a history of Islam written by me under the title, ‘Neither Islamic nor Persian’, covering the time of the Holy Prophet and extending to the Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir’s time, as a rebuttal to Western writers who describe our history as one of nation states like their own; whereas it should be described and understood as that of dynasties. The thesis of my book is that the contribution of Muslim Arabs (Bedouins of the desert, Sehranashin, Saracen) to civilization was oral, i. e. poetry and the Holy Quran. Therefore they had Hafiz to memorize the Holy Quran, whereas the Persians, whom Arabs called Ajmi (meaning Dumb, Mute or Barbarian) did not even have a script of their own. Therefore, when the Prophet Mani wanted to preach his religion to the Iranians he had to draw and paint his message to them. Today Persian is written in the Arabic script, and about half of its words are borrowed from Arabic.
The Arabs discovered the art of papermaking when the Abbasid troops captured two Chinese men near Samarkand. The Barmaki (Bacterian Buddhist Priest convert) minister Jaffer sought permission to establish papermaking, but the Muslim religious leaders opposed it. Therefore the earliest book written by Muslims on paper dates from AH 252/AD 866, and the earliest Holy Quran written on paper so far discovered dates from AH 362/AD 972.
Civilization came to the Muslim world from Mawara un Nahar, i.e., the land beyond the Oxus River on the silk route, which linked the two great ancient civilizations of China and Greece. When Hulegu (Hilaku) Khan arrived at the border of the Muslim world, he asked for the names of Muslim intellectuals and chose the historian, Ala al-Din Juwayni (d. 681/1282), as his secretary, and, the astronomer, Nasir al-Din Tusi (d. 672/1274), as his minister. After the conquest of the Abbasid Caliphate he ordered Tusi to build, with the help of his Chinese engineers, the first observatory in the Muslim world, at Maragah in Iran, and appointed historian Juwayni as the Governor of Baghdad.
The caliphs and their nobles welcomed knowledge of medicine, mathematics and astronomy, and had books on these subjects translated into Arabic, usually by Jewish and Christian converts to Islam, as they required the knowledge for their personal wellbeing as well as to run the state, But those who were madrassa educated and Hanbali schools were against knowledge that came from non-believers. Therefore whenever a dynasty collapsed or weakened, knife and fire were used to efface the wall paintings and burn the beautifully illustrated manuscripts. In 923, sackloads of illuminated manuscripts were burned in Baghdad. The palace library established by the Fatimid’s with 18,000 works was destroyed in c. 1171. The Rashidyya Library in Iran, set up by descendants of Hulegu (Hilaku) Khan had sixty thousand books, and produced each year two illustrated copies of Jami al-Tawarikh, a universal history of mankind, one in Arabic and another in Persian. Today we have no trace of that library, nor do we have a copy of the illustrated universal history, which was the combined effort of a group of scholars from Greece to China.
This hostility to knowledge and learning resulted in decay and decline, which allowed a small army of Europeans to subdue and dominate the Muslim world. According to Hali, ‘Chua tha jis nay auj asman tak. Wo aik tameer kuj asar niklee’.
In India, where the Muslims rebelled against the British in 1857 (A.H. 1274) to re-establish Mughal rule, the British governor of Punjab which then included KPK, was able to organize an army of Sikh, Hindu, Muslim Jats and Pathans, first to disband and kill the sepoys posted there and then to subdue, exile or kill the Muslim royals, nobles and ulemas of northern India. The great poet Ghalib wrote;
‘Chauk jis ko kahen wo maqtal hay
Ghar bana hay namuna zindan ka
Sheher Dehli ka zarra zarra khak
Tishna-e khun hay her musalman ka’
Hujjatul-Islam al-Imam Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi (1833-1880), who established Darul Uloom Deoband, and Javad-ud Daula, Arif Jang, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan KCSI (1817-1898), who founded MAO College (later Aligarh Muslim University), had studied under Maulana Mamlook Ali in Delhi. They were witnesses to the end of the Muslim rule in India, but reacted differently. Both were devoted to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) but differed in their interpretation of the Quran and the Sunna.
Sir Syed, who was attached to the Mughal court and had received the titles of Javad-ud Daula and Arif Jang from the Mughal King, was admonished by Ghalib for wasting his time with a dead era in writing Ain-e-Akbari, as the future was with English constitution and invention, and enmity with the British threatened to marginalize Muslims of India. Sir Syed joined the British service and tried to convince the British that Muslims were not against them. He wrote, “Loyal Muhammadans of India” and “Cause of Indian Revolt”, and wrote a commentary on the Bible to prove that Islam is the closest religion to Christianity. To convince Muslims he reinterpreted Islam to reconcile it with Western education and science. In 1862 he formed a scientific society, which issued a bilingual journal in Urdu and English. He argued that the Holy Quran rested on reason and natural law. His famous quote is that ’a true Muslim is one who must have the Holy Quran in one hand and science in the other’’. He considered both English and western science necessary for maintaining Muslim influence and position.
On the other hand, Maulana Qasim Nanotvi declared jihad against the British. He founded Darul Uloom Deoband on May 30, 1866, to teach revealed Islamic sciences, known as Manqulat, to the Muslim population. The language used was Urdu, supplemented by Arabic for theology and Persian for literature.
Maulana Nanotvi’s pupil, Mahmud al-Hasan (1851-1920) organised an armed revolution against British rule known as the Silken Letters Movement (Reshmi Rumal Tehrik). He sent Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi to Kabul, and Maulana Mohammad Mian Mansoor Ansari to the North-West Frontier Province, to recruit volunteers. Mahmud al-Hasan was arrested in Mecca and detained on the island of Malta, while Maulana Ubaydullah Sindhi and Maulana Mansoor Ansari went into exile in the Soviet Union. After his release from Malta In 1338/1920, Mahmud al-Hasan joined the Jami’atul-Ulama, which his disciples had founded in 1337/1919, and supported mass civil disobedience for the Khilafat espoused by Gandhi and the Ali brothers. He laid the foundation stone of the Jamia Millia Islamia, a university founded in support of teachers and students who had quit Aligarh Muslim University established by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, in response to a call to boycott all educational institutions supported or run by the colonial regime.
‘Boleen Amman Muhammad Ali ki
Jan baita khilafat pay day do
Sath taray hay Shaukat Ali bhi
Jan baita khilafat pay day do
Burhi amman ka gham kuch na karna
Kalma parh kar khilafat pay marna
Bas yahi kam hay kar guzarna
Jan baita khilafat pay day do’
These two trends are well entrenched in the Muslim world and have now come to the surface in the shape of bloody massacres all over the world. Those who blame the Taliban or ISIS for attacking mosques, places of worship, educational institutions, and their students, have either no knowledge of history or distort it deliberately. As the Taliban say, the first mosque, known as Masjid Zirar was demolished and burnt on the orders of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Quran Surah At-Tauba (Repentance) 9.108 states that, ‘only a mosque whose foundations have been laid from the very first on godliness is worthy of your setting foot in it’. The Holy Quran Surah Al-Kahf (Cave) 18.73, states that the Prophet Moses was accompanying the sage (Khizr) when they met a boy whom the sage killed. The Prophet Moses exclaimed, ‘You have killed an innocent soul who had taken no life. You have done a most abominable thing’. According to the Holy Quran Surah Al-Kahf 18.79, the sage explained, ‘His parents were believers, and we feared that he might impose upon them arrogance and unbelief.’
The third and fourth caliphs were first cousins and sons-in-law of the Holy Prophet, but were killed by fellow Muslims in the name of Islam, while one of them was fasting and reciting the Holy Quran in his home at his capital, Medina and the other was saying his prayers in the mosque at his capital, Kufa. And at Karbala on 10 Muharram 61 AH, the family and followers of his favourite grandson, Imam Husain, were slaughtered, and their heads impaled on spears and taken through the cities of Iraq and Syria to the caliph at Damascus. In the same manner the head of Karachi’s guardian saint, Abdullah Shah Ghazi, a great grandson of Imam Hasan, was chopped off and sent to the caliph as proof of a loyal deed done.
The madrasas, the nursery of the Taliban, have become the fastest growing institution since the Afghan Jihad against Russian occupation. While government schools have become the autaq of feudal lords, and teachers’ salaries are pocketed by their servants, madrasas are flourishing and providing education, food and clothing to children of the poor, who would otherwise lead a life of poverty and illiteracy. The Taliban, who are Madrassa educated can often read and teach the Holy Quran and the Hadith in Arabic, and know Islam better than those who do not know either of these. It is the considered opinion of our ulemas that unless you have read the Hadith, which explains the Holy Quran with reference to the life of the Holy Prophet, you cannot begin to understand the Holy Quran. Therefore the Taliban cannot allow anyone to deviate from the Holy Quran and Sunna of the Holy Prophet, and become Taghut over their people by learning to do git pit in some European language.
When a German professor asked me as to how long Taliban killing would continue, I asked him if he remembered Munster. It took some prodding from me before he could remember that the German Taliban (Knights of Christ) had established their Sharia (New Jerusalem) over Munster in 1534. They claimed all property, burnt all books except for the Bible, and announced their intention to capture the entire world and purify it of evil with the sword, in preparation for Jesus’ Second Coming and the beginning of a New Age. This resulted in massacres that reduced the German population by about 30%, and destroyed one third of German towns. From there it spread into Switzerland, the Holy Roman Empire, the Low Countries, France, Sweden and reached England where William Blake (1757-1827) wrote his famous poem ‘The New Jerusalem’.
‘Bring me my bow
of burning gold,
Bring me my arrows of desire.
Bring me my sword,
O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant land’
The poem became so popular that it was sometimes used in place of the national anthem, and even the English King George III (1738-1820) said that he preferred it to ‘God save the King’.
The religious war petered out when Europe rejected deductive logic and accepted inductive logic, and opened the way to scientific method, which led to moral values. In deductive logic the reference point is a book or a person who is accepted as authority, whereas in Ibn Sina, and proposed inductive logic and the scientific method. The French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, inductive logic the reference point is a rational human being who cannot allow anyone to do to another what he would not like to be done to him. This is the basis of moral values which is of very recent origin in human history. To this end some great European minds played a key role.
The English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, and author, Francis Bacon (1561 –1626) rejected deductive logic, asked people to do away with Aristotle and Voltaire (1694 –1778), denounced the power of the clergy. The result is that today in the West, Christ and Christianity can be lampooned, and plays and poems are written, and films are made making fun of Jesus and his disciples, because they believe in freedom of speech, and do not think that such criticism can in any way diminish the greatness and contribution that Christ and Christianity have made to history. But in our country we have the law of defamation against freedom of speech and criticism of the Holy Prophet and his companions, as if the critical words or deeds of any individual can in any way devalue the greatness and contribution that the Holy Prophet and his companions have made to humanity and history.
While the western mind has broken the shackles of Greek philosophy and gone on from deductive to inductive logic, we are still mired in deductive logic and therefore have not discovered moral values. As a result we have religious, tribal, traditional values but no moral values, which allows the Taliban to destroy and kill Taghuts, as has been the case throughout Muslim history.
‘Jo tafarqay aqwam kay aya thay mitanay
Us deen main khud tafarqa ab aa kay para hay’
Altaf Husain Hali