January 2011 eGazette – Muhammad: the Light for the Dark Ages
So said Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Have you any notion what was the strange event that occurred in the desert country of Arabia when hundreds of thousands of the dead were revived within a brief period and those who had been misguided through generations put on Divine color, and those who were blind obtained sight, and those who had been dumb began to speak of the understanding of the Divine, and the world underwent a revolution which had never been seen or heard of before? It was the supplications during dark nights of one who had lost himself in God which raised a clamor in the world, and manifested such wonders as appeared impossible in the case of that unlearned helpless one. Send down Thy blessings and peace, O Allah, on him and his people according to the amount of pain and anguish he felt for his Ummah, and pour down upon him the lights of Thy mercy forever.
[Barakat-ud-Du'a, Ruhani Khaza'in, Vol. 6, pp. 10-11]
I always wonder how high was the status of this Arabian Prophet, whose name was Muhammad, (thousands of blessings and peace be upon him). One cannot reach the limit of his high status and it is not given to man to estimate correctly his spiritual effectiveness. It is a pity that his rank has not been recognized, as it should have been. He was the champion who restored to the world the Unity of God which had disappeared from the world; he loved God in the extreme and his soul melted out of sympathy for mankind. Therefore, God, Who knew the secret of his heart, exalted him above all the Prophets and all the first ones and the last ones and bestowed upon him in his lifetime all that he desired.
He is the fountainhead of every grace and a person who claims any superiority without acknowledging his grace is not a man but is the spawn of Satan, because the Holy Prophet has been bestowed the key to every exaltation and he has been given the treasury of every understanding. He who does not receive through him is deprived forever. I am nothing and possess nothing. I would be most ungrateful if I were not to confess that I have learnt of the true Unity of God through this Prophet. The recognition of the Living God we have achieved through this perfect Prophet and through his light. The honor of converse with God, through which we behold His countenance, has been bestowed upon me through this great Prophet. The ray of this sun of guidance falls like sunshine upon me and I continue illumined only so long as I am adjusted towards it.
[Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza'in, Vol. 22, pp. 118-119]
To read additional excerpts about the Holy Prophet Muhammad click here
Friday sermon: Incomparable & supreme ethics and courteousness of the Holy Prophet Muhammad
By Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, delivered on February 25, 2005
Indeed you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent model, for him who fears Allah and the Last Day and who remembers Allah much. (Al Quran 33:22)
The personality and the character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, has such vast dimensions that it is not possible to cover all the aspects and different incidents and examples in a short series of sermons.
In this verse that I have recited, Allah says that for every person who realizes his responsibility to God and believes in accountability, there is an excellent model to follow in the person and character of the Holy Prophet. If anyone wishes to be a genuine believer and a true servant and worshipper of Allah he or she has no choice but to follow the Prophet’s model for no other model reveals such perfect characteristics and examples. As elsewhere in the Holy Quran, Allah says:
“And thou dost surely possess high moral excellences.” (Al Quran 68:5)
Promised Messiah, may peace be on him has explained this verse of the Holy Quran, “Oh Prophet, you are stationed on the most excellent character, which means that in your person you have such a charisma and such complete morals and qualities that any improvement in them cannot be imagined. The word ‘Azeem,’ in this verse, in Arabic diction is used for something that in its quality, in its category, reaches such height that anything higher cannot be conceived. Some scholars have suggested that ‘Azeem’ is something whose grandeur cannot be fully appreciated and is beyond the human imagination.”
So, such is the grandeur of the personality and temperament of our Prophet. Such is the vastness of his achievements and abilities; nevertheless, we have to try to emulate his example within the limits of our abilities.
So, this year I will give a series of sermons to highlight different aspects of his character and also refute some of the absurd criticism raised against him by the opponents of Islam.
An honest study of the causes of the Dark Ages and European renaissance will lead to the inevitable conclusion that Muhammad, may peace be on him, was the Messiah of the Dark Ages. John Davenport writes in an apology for Mohammed and the Koran: “It is in the compositions of Friar Bacon, who was born in 1214, and who learned the Oriental languages, that we discover the most extensive acquaintance with the Arabian anthors. He quotes Albumazar, Thabet-Ebu-Corah, Ali Alhacer, Alkandi, Alfraganus and Arzakeb; and seems to have been as familiar with them as with the Greek and Latin classics, especially with Avicenna, whom he calls ‘the chief and prince of philosophy.’ The great Lord Bacon, it is well known, imbibed and borrowed the first principles of his famous experimental philosophy from his predecessor and namesake Roger Bacon, a fact which indisputably establishes the derivation of the Baconian philosophical system from the descendants of Ishmael and disciples of Mohammed.” In a short paragraph, John Davenport has very precisely identified all the links in the human intellectual evolution. Additionally, his book, which is available in Google books, is a master piece in the defense of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him. Read his two pages Preface and he is standing shoulder to shoulder with other great defenders of the Prophet Muhammad in the Western world, like Thomas Carlyle. Unfortunately, some Western scientists and historians propose the European science to be some sort of magical wand and what preceded it as not good enough or label it as pre-science or mystical science etc!
Traditional education about Western civilization tells the story of how around 1500, Greek texts recovered the lost memory of Europe’s Greek and Roman past and unleashed an era of progress in science and civilization called the Renaissance. In fact, the progress in civilization had begun in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and was the result of the transfer of Arabic civilization to Europe. The sixteenth century Renaissance was rather the construction of an exclusive Christian European identity within the world of literature and science. Latin humanists created a movement imitating the Arab tradition in its key values, but distinguishing itself by classical Latin as its lingua franca and the classical authors as its founding fathers. After a period in which classical culture was vigorously celebrated and Arab influences were attempted to be removed from the scientific canon, the image of a Greek source of European culture had settled itself firmly in the European mind. Scholars hardly dared cite an Arab in support of their revolutionary developments. Popular belief reaffirmed the theme of the revived classics by repetition after repetition until the Arabic heritage in Europe came to be forgotten. Biased educative material should be corrected to offer a true image of history to our youth.
“Islamic World welcomed Christians and Jewish students equally with Muslims, not only that, but entertained them at the Government expense and that hundreds of Christian students from South of Europe and the countries of the East took advantage of that chance to escape from ecclesiastical leading strings;” according to Marmaduke Pickthall, one of the very early British converts to Islam, “we can easily perceive what a debt of gratitude modern European progress owes to Islam, while it owes nothing whatsoever to the Christian Church, which persecuted, tortured, even burnt the learned.”
The scientific cooperation between India and the Arabs dates back to the time of Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad when a number of books on astronomy, mathematics, and medicine were translated from Sanskrit into Arabic. From then on the ancient scientific knowledge of India continued to influence Muslim scientists. Arab interest in Hindu sciences was parallel to their interest in Greek learning.
When Sind was under the dominion of Caliph al-Mansur (753-774), there appeared before him a scholar who had come from India. He was skilled in the calculus of the stars known as Sindhind (i.e. Siddhanta), and possessed methods for solving equations founded on the kardagas (i.e. sines) calculated for every half degree, also methods for computing eclipses and other things. Al-Mansur ordered the book Brahma-siddantha in which all this contained to be translated into Arabic, and that a work should be prepared from it which might serve as foundation for computing the motions of the planets. This was done by Ibrahim al-Fazari (d770) and Yaqub Ibn Tariq (d796) in cooperation with Hindu pundits in 750 and the book was called Al-Zīj ‛alā Sinī al-‛Arab, or Sindhand al-Kabir.
Alhazen: the Father of Optics and the First Scientist
By By Zia H Shah MD
Anyone who has ever used vision glasses or contact lenses, taken a picture with a camera or watched television has a reason to be thankful to the Father of Optics, Alhazen.
“We do not know how things will go in Europe in the future. The Charter of Fundamental Rights may be a first step, a sign that Europe is once again consciously seeking its soul. Here we must agree with Toynbee that the fate of a society always depends on its creative minorities. Christian believers should look upon themselves as just such a creative minority, and help Europe to reclaim what is best in its heritage and to thereby place itself at the service of all humankind.”
Latinized as Alhazen, in full, Abū Alī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham, born c. 965, Basra, Iraq, died c. 1040, Cairo, Egypt, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “mathematician and astronomer who made significant contributions to the principles of optics and the use of scientific experiments.”
David L. Shenkenberg writes in an article titled, ‘Before Newton, there was Alhazen,’ for Photonix.com:
“A millennium ago, an Arab scientist authored more than 100 works on optics, astronomy, mathematics and religious philosophy. Although he was arguably one of the greatest scientists of all time, his name is little known to people living in Western countries today.”
If we read all the works of Alhazen, Roger Bacon from 14th century and Sir Isaac Newton side by side, we may realize that a lot of work attributed to Sir Isaac Newton truly belongs to Alhazen. The paradigm of two civilizations, arising from the politics of crusades, deprived Alhazen of these honors. The time is now ripe to begin the study of the works of these three gifted giants, who were standing on the shoulders of prior giants, side by side, to have a better understanding of the history of science.
Alhazen also described the refraction and the dispersion of light into its component colors, ideas credited to Isaac Newton. “Certainly in the field of optics, Newton himself stood on the shoulders of a giant who lived 700 years earlier,” said Jim Al-Khalili, a physics professor at the University of Surrey in the UK. Khalili recently narrated “The Empire of Reason,” about history of science that is part of a three-part series on medieval Islamic scientists.
Nobel Laureate in physics, Dr. Abdus Salam wrote:
“Ibn-al-Haitham (Alhazen, 965–1039 CE) was one of the greatest physicists of all time. He made experimental contributions of the highest order in optics. He enunciated that a ray of light, in passing through a medium, takes the path which is the easier and ‘quicker’. In this he was anticipating Fermat’s Principle of Least Time by many centuries. He enunciated the law of inertia, later to become Newton’s first law of motion. Part V of Roger Bacon’s ‘Opus Majus’ is practically an annotation to Ibn al Haitham’s Optics.”
The punch line here is, “Part V of Roger Bacon’s ‘Opus Majus’ is practically an annotation to Ibn al Haitham’s Optics.”
“By the eighth century, with Western Europe languishing in its dark ages, the Islamic empire covered an area larger in expanse than either the Roman Empire at its height or all the lands conquered and ruled by Alexander the Great. So powerful and influential was this empire that, for a period stretching over 700 years, the international language of science was Arabic.
The teenage prince Ma’mūn would have known Baghdad at the height of its glory: a vast, beautiful city characterized by the domes and archways of its famously intricate Abbasid architecture. It had grown to become the world’s largest city just 50 years after the first brick was laid, with some estimates putting its population at more than 1 million.
Ma’mūn was not the only caliph to support scholarship and science, but he was certainly the most cultured, passionate and enthusiastic. As a young man, he memorized the Qur’an, studied the history of early Islam, recited poetry and mastered the newly maturing discipline of Arabic grammar. He also studied arithmetic and its applications in the calculation of taxes. Most importantly, he was a brilliant student of philosophy and theology, or more specifically what is referred to in Arabic as kalam, which is a form of dialectic debate and argument. The early Muslim theologians found that the techniques of kalam enabled them to hold their own in theological discussions with the Christian and Jewish scholars who lived alongside them, and who had had a head start of several centuries to hone their debating skills by studying the writings of philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – historical figures from ancient Greece whose names would certainly have been known to the young Ma’mūn. It is even quite likely that by the early 9th century, some of their work had already been translated into Arabic.
Under Ma’mūn’s patronage, and the spirit of openness towards other religions and cultures that he fostered, many scholars from all over the empire gravitated towards Baghdad, drawn by a vibrant sense of optimism and freedom of expression. Every week, guests would be invited to the palace, wined and dined, and then begin to discuss with the caliph all manner of scholarly subjects, from theology to mathematics. He would send emissaries great distances to get hold of ancient scientific texts: one, Salman, visited Constantinople to obtain Greek texts from the Emperor Leo V (Leo the Armenian). Often, defeated foreign rulers would be required to settle the terms of surrender to him with books from their libraries rather than in gold.
The Father of Algebra: Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī
By Zia H Shah MD
There are about 750 verses in Quran urging Muslims to make use of reason to understand nature and thus reach their understanding of the Creator, in contrast to just 250 verses about legislation. The Holy Quran states:
In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding; those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain or without purpose.’ (Al Quran 3:191-192)
The Quran not only encouraged Muslims to study nature and acquire secular knowledge but also provided specific information on several occasions. For example the Holy Quran states about computing:
And We have made the night and the day two Signs, and the Sign of night We have made dark, and the Sign of day We have made sightgiving, that you may seek bounty from your Lord, and that you may know the computation of years and the science of reckoning and mathematics. And everything We have explained with a detailed explanation. (Al Quran 17:13)
No wonder the early Muslim scientists made great strides in the rapidly emerging fields of astronomy and mathematics. In Sura Yunus the Holy Quran states:
He it is Who made the sun radiate a brilliant light and the moon reflect a luster, and ordained for it stages, that you might know the number of years and the reckoning of time. Allah has not created this but in truth. He details the Signs for a people who have knowledge. Indeed, in the alternation of night and day, and in all that Allah has created in the heavens and the earth there are Signs for a God-fearing people. (Al Quran 10:6-7)
Further more the Holy Quran anticipates the discovery of gravitation when it says in Sura Raad:
Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne. And He pressed the sun and the moon into service: each pursues its course until an appointed term. He regulates it all. He clearly explains the Signs, that you may have a firm belief in the meeting with your Lord. (Al Quran 13:3)
Mathematics is the metaphor against which all other sciences are checked. Sciences like astronomy and physics could not have developed without the foundation of mathematics and algebra provided by al-Khwārizmī and other Muslim mathematicians and astronomers.
In his achievements, Dr. Salam saw a certain special Providence of God. Let me quote from the transcript of one of his interviews. The questi0ns asked by Lewis Wolpert or Alison Richards are in inverted comas:
“But I am not quite sure how you got to Cambridge.”
I got to Cambridge by means of a scholarship from Small Peasants’ welfare fund which was set up by the Prime Minister of the State of Punjab at that time.
“Did you come from a peasant background?”
That’s right. Although my father was a Civil Servant, he had a small parcel of land and he qualified. So I got one of those scholarships and the interesting thing is that only five scholarships were offered, and the other four people who got them could not get university admission that year. Then came the partition of the country and the scholarships disappeared. So the entire purpose of that fund and those scholarships seemed to be to get me to Cambridge.
“Did you really think that fate was playing a hand? After all, each of these events was very much a matter of chance.”
Certainly my father, who was a deeply religious man, always said that this was a result of his prayers. He wanted his son to shine in some field. Of course, in the beginning he was thinking of me as a Civil Servant, but when I decided that I was going to do research, he felt that this was something very appropriate and encouraged me. But the whole sequence of events, my getting a scholarship at the right time, my getting to Cambridge at all at the right time, and then being interested in science, was all, he thought, very much a part of something deeper.