During Islam’s Golden Age, Muslim researchers reached the highest echelons in the fields of science, mathematics, geography, astronomy, medicine and inventions. Whilst Europe languished in the dark ages, the Muslims were at the forefront of the world in discovery and innovation. Many of the inventions and scientific methods used by the world today are credited to the academic enlightenment of Islam’s Golden Age. Can this Golden Age of Islam be revived? On Saturday 14th December 2019, the first Ahmadiyya Muslim Research Association (AMRA) Conference, organised by Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya UK (MKA UK), was held at the Masroor Hall in Islamabad, Tilford UK. Over 250 people attended the event throughout the day including 60 researchers. Delegates originated from 9 countries around the world. The concluding session of the event was graced with an address by His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Fifth Khalifah (Caliph).
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Fifth Khalifah (Caliph) said:
 اِنَّ فِیۡ خَلۡقِ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ وَ اخۡتِلَافِ الَّیۡلِ وَ النَّہَارِ لَاٰیٰتٍ لِّاُولِی الۡاَلۡبَابِ
 الَّذِیۡنَ یَذۡکُرُوۡنَ اللّٰہَ قِیٰمًا وَّ قُعُوۡدًا وَّ عَلٰی جُنُوۡبِہِمۡ وَ یَتَفَکَّرُوۡنَ فِیۡ خَلۡقِ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ ۚ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقۡتَ ہٰذَا بَاطِلًا ۚ سُبۡحٰنَکَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
‘These verses of the Holy Qur’an I have just recited are verses 191-192 of Surah Aal-e-‘Imran and the translation is as follows:
“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; nay, Holy art Thou; save us, then, from the punishment of the Fire.”
Today, with the Grace of Allah, you are holding the first International AMRA Conference. I hope and pray that the event has proven beneficial and a source of learning for all of the participants.
In many verses of the Holy Qur’an, including those just recited, Allah the Almighty has mentioned the creation of the heavens and the earth and He has instructed us to reflect upon the true purpose of our creation. He has encouraged us to use our brains, to ponder upon His creation and to search for new roads of human progress and innovation, through research and reflection.
Indeed, Allah the Almighty has deemed humans as the ‘best of creation’ because of the fact that we have been granted intelligence and understanding. We have been granted the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. We have been given the ability to think and comprehend.
Unique amongst all creation, Allah the Almighty has given mankind the insight to appreciate that whatever He has created has been made for our benefit, on condition that we use it in the right way.
Certainly, out of all the heavenly scriptures, the Holy Qur’an is unique in terms of the vast amount of insight it has given about the universe and its inception and how it has encouraged scientific research and the pursuit of knowledge.
In this regard, the Promised Messiah(as) [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian] has stated that when a believer studies and ponders over the celestial bodies and the entire universe, it causes their minds to open up and for them to become enlightened. The result is that they are led towards a firm belief in the existence of God Almighty, as they see the signs and evidence for His existence all around them.
On the other hand, the interests of worldly and non-religious researchers are finite and narrow. When they study something, they assess it in a limited way.
However, a righteous person is not satisfied by merely identifying the dimensions of the world, its material form or calculating the gravitational forces. Nor are they content by simply determining the main characteristics of the sun, the moon and the stars; rather, a true believer will continually strive and struggle to observe and understand the perfect harmony of nature and the world around us. He or she will have an unquenchable thirst to identify the hidden characteristics or potential of the physical world and as they realise its brilliance and perfection, they will inevitably be drawn towards their Creator and their faith in the existence of God Almighty will be enhanced.
Consequently, when an intelligent person reflects carefully upon the heavens and the earth, the universe and why the length of the night and day remains constantly in a state of flux, it causes them to perceive God Almighty and appreciate His perfect creation. When they see God Almighty in this way and recognise His majesty, they turn towards him with increased fervency and passion and seek His Help and Grace, in their efforts to further understand and unlock the mysteries of the universe.
In order to attain His blessings and help, they remember Him whilst standing, sitting and resting, just as has been described as the state of a righteous believer in the verses of the Holy Qur’an recited. When they pray to Allah for guidance, He grants them clarity of thought, He enlightens their minds and washes away the haze of incomprehension that previously existed. He grants them an understanding of the universe and planets and they come to recognise with certainty, that such a perfect and precise natural order could never have come about by chance or on its own; rather, it is a reflection and indicator of a Great Creator.
Indeed, it is a testament to the existence of a Universal Creator.
Those people, whose minds are opened in this way, bow down before their Creator and pray that they are saved from His Wrath and that He guides them towards prosperity and a deeper understanding of His creation.
In a similar vein, the Promised Messiah(as) has stated that the continued study of physics, astronomy and the sciences will always lead a righteous person towards God Almighty. The more they learn about God’s creation and the world around them, the more they will appreciate the beauty of Allah the Almighty through the wonders of the universe. Once a believer gains such knowledge and insight, he or she is not just able to guide others about the latest scientific developments, rather they will also be tooled with the armoury to prove to the world the existence of that One God, who is the Creator of all creation.
This is the symbol of a true believer, the means of their success and their path to attaining real honour and prestige in the world. It was in this way, reflecting upon the universe, that Professor Dr Abdus Salam Sahib spent his life and he used whatever insight he gained as evidence to prove the existence of God.
Hence, all Ahmadi researchers or academics should continually keep in view the Oneness of God Almighty before, during and after conducting any research or study. They should seek to conduct their investigations with the firm intention of eliciting evidence that will enable them to prove the existence of the One God to sceptics and disbelievers and to refute those who claim that science and religion are irreconcilable.
When they research in this way and seek the Help of Allah the Almighty at each step, no doubt He will assist them at every juncture and be their guiding light.
As I said before, the research of a secular person is based on a purely worldly approach and they use their intellect for the sake of material progress. Their efforts can lead to scientific advancement, but the research of a believer has a far greater potential impact. Their research will not only lead to scientific progress and the development of modern technologies, but will also serve to offer proof of the existence of God Almighty.
Therefore, Ahmadi Muslim researchers, especially those who pursue the sciences, should not only have the intention of enhancing the understanding of their chosen field, but should also maintain an everlasting resolve to find proofs of the existence of God.
As I have said, this was how Dr Abdus Salam Sahib conducted his work and he attained phenomenal success as a result.
Remember, that the Promised Messiah(as) has said that people of true intellect and wisdom are those who never forget God Almighty and always remember Him.
Thus, where our scientists and researchers strive to excel in their academic pursuits, they must always safeguard their faith, fulfil the rights of Allah the Almighty and fulfil the demands laid upon them to search for additional evidence proving the existence of an All-Powerful God. Hence, there should always be a clear distinction between Ahmadi scientists and researchers and others who pursue similar fields of study. And the difference ought to be that the pursuit of knowledge of an Ahmadi must be based upon Taqwa– righteousness.
Indeed, the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) said that a person should fear the acumen and perceptive nature of a believer, because their knowledge is based upon righteousness.
In summary, the love and majesty of Allah the Almighty should be forever ingrained and imprinted in your hearts and minds.
If you research and seek to evolve your work in this way, then Allah the Almighty will bestow upon you great success, Insha’Allah.
Some of you may be aware that once, a well-known Western researcher and traveller, Professor Clement Wragge, travelled to Qadian to meet the Promised Messiah(as). During their conversation, the Promised Messiah(as) explained that Allah the Almighty has created the sun and the moon, the stars and planets to serve human beings and for the benefit of humankind.
In light of this, whilst conducting research to answer questions that remain unsolved, an Ahmadi researcher must keep at the forefront of their mind that whatever has been created by Allah the Almighty has been made for the benefit of humanity. It should be their objective to uncover and derive the benefits and to ensure that whatever intellectual progress is made is utilised in the right way for the betterment of mankind.
In his discussions with Professor Wragge, the Promised Messiah(as) affirmed that there was no contradiction between science and religion and that no matter how far science progressed, it would never prove a single letter or word of the Holy Qur’an, or the teachings of Islam, to be untrue. Rather, every discovery and every development would serve as additional proof of the truth of the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the existence of the One God.
Certainly, the Holy Qur’an does not shy away from science or discourage its followers from study. Quite the opposite – the Holy Qur’an instructs believers to explore, to investigate and to utilise their intellect and God-given faculties. Indeed, those who strive to advance human knowledge for the benefit of humanity will reap the rewards of Allah the Almighty for their efforts.
However, the Holy Qur’an has also warned humans from interfering with the laws of nature or from seeking to change or modify the creation of Allah through unnatural means.For example, in recent years, the boundaries of scientific ethics have gradually eroded, whereby there have been attempts to pursue immoral and dangerous pursuits such as genetic engineering and the cloning of living creatures.
The results of such undertakings, where humans far exceed their limits and seek to ‘play God’, will surely be catastrophic and be the means of driving mankind towards its destruction. It will not only lead the protagonists towards Hell in the Hereafter, but they will also be responsible for creating a living Hell on earth.
This is something every Ahmadi Muslim researcher and scientist must guard against. You must only pursue those avenues that are for the benefit of humanity and which are according to the limits prescribed by Allah the Almighty. Always remember that to stay within the confines of the Holy Qur’an is the hallmark of a believer. If you conduct your work in this way, you can achieve great things and revive the once distinguished reputation of Muslim scholars and academics.
With the Grace of Allah, during the Middle Ages, countless Muslim scientists, philosophers and intellectuals left an indelible mark on humanity by advancing the cause of human knowledge and understanding. Their pioneering efforts brought about a remarkable revolution in the world and their research and discoveries continue to be the basis for modern science and mathematics. They utilised their God-given talents and faculties, whilst seeking the Help of Allah the Almighty and reflecting upon His creation and as a result, have been recognised through history and continue to be acknowledged and respected today.
For example, an article published by the National Geographic in 2016 titled ‘How early Islamic Science advanced Medicine’, identifies the contributions of Muslim scientists in the early period of Islam. The article states:
“Physicians from Islamic countries during the late Middle Ages enjoyed great respect. Their reputation was well deserved, for the study and practice of medicine was then led by Muslim societies across their immense territory, which extended from modern-day southern Spain to Iran.”
It further states:
“By the 900s, drawing from a growing body of Greek, Persian, and Sanskrit works translated into Arabic, Islamic medicine quickly became the most sophisticated in the world. Christians, Jews, Hindus, and scholars from many other traditions, looked to Arabic as a language of science. Doctors of different faiths worked together, debating and studying with Arabic as the common tongue.”
The article continues:
“The brightest star in the Baghdad firmament was undoubtedly the extraordinary Ibn Sina…Already a doctor at age 18, his great volume Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb– Canon of Medicine– became one of the most famous medical works of all time…[Ibn Sina’s] attempt to harmonize the medical practices of the Greek thinker Galen with the philosophy of Aristotle reveals the multiple nature of the debt owed to Muslim scholarship, which did not merely revive Greek authors, but stimulated new patterns of thought for the centuries ahead. The reconciling of practical science, thought, and religion ensured Al-Qanun was studied by European medics until the 18thcentury.”
Moreover, the National Geographic article labels the period of Muslim rule in Spain as a “period of scholarly development” and describes Cordoba in the 10th Century as the “most cultured city in Europe” and “a great centre of study and exploration.”
In another article, published by The New York Times, ‘How Islam Won, and Lost, the Lead in Science’ the contribution of early Muslim scientists is also openly praised.
The author writes:
“Civilisations don’t just clash, they can learn from each other. Islam is a good example of that. The intellectual meeting of Arabia and Greece was one of the greatest events in history. Its scale and consequences are enormous, not just for Islam but for Europe and the world.”
However, the article also notes that many of the contributions made by the early Muslims were not preserved.
In this regard, it states:
“…historians say they know very little about this golden age. Few of the major scientific works from that era have been translated from Arabic and thousands of manuscripts have never even been read by modern scholars.”
Hence, the historic contributions of Muslim scholars is unquestioned. Yet, most regrettably, the recent intellectual state of much of the Muslim world has been lamentable.
Over time, as Muslims moved away from God Almighty and the qualities associated with a believer diminished rapidly amongst them the Muslims, who had previously led the world in science and research, gradually moved to an age of intellectual ignorance that persists to this day. Instead of continuing to be the leaders of innovation and discovery, the period of Muslim academic enlightenment drew to an end and the Muslims relied on the discoveries and modern technologies made by others. Instead of being those who gave to the world, the Muslims became those who only took.
As a result, where the world recognises the outstanding historic contribution of Muslims to science and learning, it considers the intellectual status of the modern-day Muslim world to be woeful. The truth is that, generally speaking, the Muslim world has lost its passion for education and pushing the boundaries of human knowledge. Muslim nations have become immersed in the luxuries and comforts of the world and so they no longer have the drive or motivation to toil in the pursuit of knowledge or to reflect upon the universe.
The failure of the contemporary Muslim world to excel in science and learning has been discussed by Hillel Ofek, a Research Fellow at the Clements Centre for National Security in the United States, in an article titled ‘Why the Arab World turned away from Science’. He describes how Muslims have gone from leading the world in science and the development of human civilisation to a state where their contributions are now mocked amongst the academic community. He writes that until around the year 1600, ‘nothing in Europe could hold a candle’ to the intellectual advancement made by Muslims scientists and scholars.
Furthermore, he notes how many scientific and mathematical terms, such as algebra, algorithm, alchemy and alkali derive from Arabic and reflect Islam’s contribution to the world. Yet he goes on to paint a modern-day picture of science in the Muslim world that is completely at odds with its illustrious past. For example, he notes that there have only ever been two scientists from Muslim countries who have won the Nobel Prize, despite the fact there are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.
Another stark statistic he presents is that 46 Muslim countries combined contributed just one percent of the world’s scientific literature. In a similar vein, he states that in 1989, the United States published over 10,000 scientific papers that were frequently cited, whilst in the entire Arab world just four commonly cited papers were published in the same period. He also notes how between 1980 and 2000, just one country, South Korea, granted over 16,000 intellectual patents, whilst nine Arab countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE granted a combined total of just 370. The article also quotes the Nobel Laureate, Professor Steven Weinberg, speaking about the dearth of scientific material originating from Muslim countries.
Professor Weinberg states:
“Though there are talented scientists of Muslim origin working productively in the West, for forty years I have not seen a single paper by a physicist or astronomer working in a Muslim country that was worth reading.”
Thus, in intellectual and scientific terms, Muslims and the Islamic nations have gone from leading the world, to being treated with scorn and derision.
At this time of intellectual ignorance amongst the Islamic world, it is the great challenge for Ahmadi Muslim scientists and researchers to revive the honour and dignity of Islam in the global academic arena. Indeed, it should be your ambition to take up the glorious mantle of enlightenment adorned by the great Muslim scholars and inventors of the Middle Ages.
Each year, it is a tradition that our Jama’at [Ahmadiyya Muslim Community] awards gold medals for outstanding educational achievement in various fields. However, when the scheme was initiated by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih III(rh) [Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, Third Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community] , he instructed that the gold medals and scholarships were specifically to reward those who excelled in science.
He started the scheme shortly after Dr Abdus Salam Sahib won the Nobel Prize and it was his ardent desire that at least 100 Ahmadi Muslims would soon follow in the footsteps of Dr Abdus Salam and become eminent scientists by the time our Jama’at [Ahmadiyya Muslim Community] entered its second century.
Three decades of the second century of Ahmadiyyat have now passed and regrettably, I do not think we have even produced a scientist who has become world-renowned in that time.
In addition, for the past thirteen or fourteen years, I have instructed Ahmadi students either directly, or through Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya [Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association], to enter the field of academia and research and to endeavour to reach the highest echelons of their fields. However, so far, it cannot be said that the results have been anywhere near as good as I had hoped.
As far as I know, hardly any Ahmadi has played an outstanding or extraordinary role in the scientific and intellectual development of the world.
Here I would also like to appreciate the efforts of the USA Chapter of the Association of Ahmadi Scientists, who are somehow active and hold regular meetings on science and the Qur’an. Yet, we cannot say they have achieved that exceptional mark expected of them.
Consequently, having gathered here and held this conference, you must all consider it your mission to pursue excellence within your chosen field. You must leave here with a firm determination in your hearts to follow in the footsteps of Dr Abdus Salam and those outstanding Muslim scholars and researchers, who left behind a rich legacy of knowledge many centuries ago. You must reflect upon how you can develop a greater understanding of the world and develop new technologies or systems through which humanity can benefit.
As scientists and researchers, it is up to you to exercise your minds and talents to seek out the ways and methods to accomplish great feats of learning. You should stay in contact with one another and particularly with those who are working in similar areas of research and learn from each other. Through mutual discussion and coordination, you may be able to achieve better results. Work with diligence, passion and above all, constantly seek the Help of Allah the Almighty at every step of your academic journey and keep His Majesty at the forefront of your minds.
With these words, I pray that may Allah the Almighty enable you to flourish and to achieve great success in your fields of expertise. And may we soon come to witness the dawn of a new Islamic golden age of intellectual progress and advancement, led by Ahmadi Muslims across the world – Ameen.”