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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading this, Omar has been telling me the exact same thing u wrote but somehow it did not make as much of an impact as reading it.
Great job miss Hanno and please do not think of starting another blog about Mr. Al Gamal although i would read all that he will have to say.
No mention of your Ibn Batouta with the greats?