Thursday, December 25, 2008

Yehya Al Gamal

Attended a lecture by the renowned Egyptian law professor Yehya Al Gamal. It was titled "The Arabs and Human Civilization".

Dr. Al Gamal emphasized that no one can claim ownership of civilization. It is a work-in-progress that belongs to all humans. He then gave a quick review of the old civilizations that flourished along the rivers in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and Latin America. Next he highlighted Greece's' important contribution to civilization, being the birth place of Philosophy. The Roman's contribution was in introducing law as we know it today. The next contribution came from Christianity which emphasized the importance of love and peace.

Now we come to the interesting and mind boggling part cause next came Islam. Al Gamal believes (and so do I) that Islam main message was a call to "Engage the Brain" or "إعمال العقل" (kind of hard to believe knowing where Muslims are today).

Between the 8th and 14th century, Muslims' contributions to civilization are undisputed. Muslim scientists excelled in all venues of science. The list is very long, and I've previously mention some of them in the Ibrahim Issa post (dated March 14, 2008), so I will just mention a couple of those scientist who I missed in that post.

How about Abu Rayhan Al Biruni described by a contemporary scientist as one of the greatest brains ever. He was a scientist and physicist, an anthropologist and comparative sociologist, an astronomer and chemist, an encyclopedist and historian, a geographer and traveler, a geodesist and geologist, a mathematician, a pharmacist and psychologist, an Islamic philosopher and theologian, and a scholar and teacher. Do I need to say more?

Another great was Ibn Rushd, better known in the west as Averroes. He was an Andalusian, a master of early Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy, geography, mathematics and physics. Ibn Rushd has been described as the founding father of secular thought in Western Europe.

Less than 150 years after the death of Ibn Rushd, the Islamic civilization produced Ibn Khaldun. Another polymath since he was an astronomer, economist, historian, Islamic scholar, Islamic theologian, hafiz, jurist, lawyer, mathematician, military strategist, nutritionist, philosopher, social scientist and statesman. He is considered the forerunner of several social scientific disciplines: demography, cultural history,historiography, the philosophy of history, sociology, and modern economics. He is sometimes considered to be the "father" of these disciplines, or even the social sciences in general, for anticipating many elements of these disciplines centuries before they were founded in the West. He is best known for his Muqaddimah (known as Prolegomenon in the West), the first volume of his book on universal history, Kitab al-Ibar.

Now the question is, how did Islamic civilization produce those great Muslim scientists, and many more (Ibn Sina, Al Razi, Al-Khwārizmī, Gaber ibn Hayan, AlFarabi,....) in the first seven or so centuries of the Islamic civilization but it failed to produce any such greats in the following seven centuries?

Moreover, the Islamic society introduced the "Awkaf", which is nothing but the first ever social security system. Currently, this system is widely implemented in the west, but is almost absent from most Islamic countries.

What happened?

Al Gamal thinks the answer is twofold. First we forgot the main and most important message of Islam mentioned above. Some how, Muslims swapped what they wear in their feet with the brains in their head. Second, they allowed their rulers unlimited and undisputed power, and submitted to the lack of or limited freedoms given to them.

To demonstrate the second point Al Gamal reminded us of what happened to the three countries that started the non-alliance movement. Egypt, Yugoslavia, and India more or less had the same potential and their three leaders, back in the fifties, had the same aspirations. So where are those countries today? Abdel Nasser and Tito chose to rule as dictators. So even if some see them as heroes with genuine intentions to better their countries, we all know what happened. Yugoslavia is no more, and Egypt .................... no comment. But India's Nehru chose democracy. And again we all are aware of the Indian nuclear abilities and its evolution into a new world power.

So what to do to resurrect the Muslim civilization. According to Al Gamal, the obvious answer is to return our brains to where they belong in our heads, and by amending our constitutions to restrict the power of our rulers and then enforcing that change by ensuring the sovereignty of the law.

Come on Muslims, on my count.
One! Two! Three!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

خدعونا فقالوا

خدعونا فقالوا إن سبب الوساخة والتخلف والفقر اللي في البلد هو الإنفجار السكاني!! وأنا كنت عبيطة ( أو بستعبط ) و مصدقة الكلام دة لحد ما رحت الصين.

لقيت نفس الزحمة اللي عرفاها في شوارع مصر بس من غير وساخة!! إستغربت خالص مالص و قلت هم صحيح إخوانا الصينيين بياكلوا كل حاجة وأي حاجة ومابيرموش أي جزء من أي نبات، حشرة، أو حيوان، بس برضة فين الورق و البلاستيك اللي مفروض يكون في الشارع؟

وشفت نفس الزحام في محطات المترو والقطارات بس من غير هرجلة ولا زق ولا تحرش ولا بهدلة!!! برضة إستغربت و قلت أمال إية كل الكلام الفارغ دة علي ثقافة الزحام و العدوانية الخزعبالية المحورية الناتجة عن قسمة عدد أفراد الأسرة علي متوسط سعر متر الأرض في العتبة الخضراء اللي الخبراء دوشونا بيها دي؟؟ الناس دي منظمة و محترمة بعض كدة إزاي؟؟؟

وبالرغم من الأعداد المهولة من البشر، ماشفتش ناس بتتسكع في الشوارع ولاشفت عواطلية. كل واحد وواحدة ماشين عارفين دورهم في النهضة الصينية. حتى بنات الفوت مساج. كل واحدة دارسة شغلها وعارفة هى حتلعب في أي صباع بالظبط. إتعجبت و قلت أمال إحنا مش عارفين نشغل الكام مليون اللي عندنا لية؟

يامصرييييييييييين!!! علي رأي أم كلثوم : " العيب فيكم وفللي حاكمكم، أما الصين ياروحي علية." ء

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The First Anniversary Post

I haven't written any new posts for over a month!!! Not sure how or why that happened? Brain Freeze? Alzheimer? Divine Mercy for my readers on the occasion the holy month of Hajj? Or may be, there is a conspiricy to prevent me from writing? Who knows.

Here is what happened so you can judge for yourself.

I was planning a special post on December 3rd, which was the first anniversary of my blog, but then my Ibn Batouta husband decided that we should go visit his cousin & her husband in China (I have no idea how he comes up with those crazy ideas, but what really puzzles me is how the heck does he convince me to go along with them. I am suspecting hypnosis!!) So I was too busy packing, and the anxiety I suffer from before any trip made me decide to write my (so called) special post in China.

In China. and for the first couple of days, our sleeping patterns were all messed up. The cousin & her husband were on China time. Ibn Batouta & I were five hours behind them. And when Ibn Ibn Batouta joined us there, he was 12 hours behind China time. So we saw each other in shifts, and at any given time only two or three of us were awake (well, kind of).

Ibn Batouta's cousin, finally found the perfect cure for this timezone problem. On a rare occasion when we were all awake, she took us to a foot massage place. Two of us (not telling who) were completely out the moment they placed their feet in the burning hot water bucket, and the rest hit the snooze button as soon as those master masseuses started working their magic on our very tired feet. Well this is what I think has happened since when I woke up, we were all well rested and finally on the same timezone. Rumor has it that some of those foot massage places also offer what the cousin calls "Massage with a Happy Ending". Hopefully we were not in one of those. (But if we weren't, why did the guys keep wanting to go back??)

Now that I was sleeping "normally" and was well rested , I thought I'd have time to write a post. I was wrong. Ibn Batouta had other plans. He was determined to see as much of China as possible in the short time we had left. We would wake up every morning, eat breakfast, and then follow in the tracks of Marco Polo. BTW, I am not complaining. I loved visiting so many places, and getting to know more about the people and the culture that will probably dominate the world in a few years. I was really impressed by most of what I saw. The only area the Chinese need to work hard on and improve drastically is their so called food. And I don't mean what we usually find in Chinese restaurant outside China, cause this has nothing to do with true traditional Chinese food. Hello!! Chinese People!! Ni Hao!!! I love you and love your country, BUT, having rats, cockroaches, bats, dogs, crocodiles, scorpions on a restaurant menu is NOT cool!!!

Any ways, back to my dry spell. Between site seeing, traveling to Hong Kong & Macau, and hunting for Arabic or European restaurants to find edible food, I had no time to write.

Now the plan was to write a new post as soon as we return home safely. But guess what, when I arrived home, my OCD took over and I had to unpack and return each travel item back to its designated place. The next day, I finally sat down at my recliner with the laptop on my lap to write. But I discovered that my laptop was acting crazy and was painfully slow, so I spent a day or so, doing disk checks, defragmenting, and running all the stupid tools that are supposed to fix your PC but never actually do. Up till this moment, I had no problem accepting that all those events were nothing but coincidences.

But what happened next was just too much. The moment (and I am not exaggerating) I had a working (but far from perfect) PC, I lost Internet Services. When I called the service provider to ask when will the problem be fixed, I was told that three submarine cables were cut and that they had no idea when they will be fixed!!

So excuse me if I invoke the conspiracy theory doubts that I was trying to ignore all along. Someone is determined to silence me. And this person must be the one I write most often about and who most probably is the one I embarrass the most by what I write!!!

Allah y sam7ak ya Ibn Batouta.