Mind Building - A neglected dimension of Islam
Allahu Akbar, Allahaaaahuu Akbar! ... Oh, the vibrating wake-up call to begin another day. It's somewhat different though, as in this age of modern technology and rapid change, this call is from a digital clock right by the bedside. It is not a substitute for the hearty adhan coming live from a minaret, but for a weak believer like me, I am so grateful to have this, instead of a regular alarm clock, in a small rural town in the USA.
Offering the prayer, I head for the kitchen area. On the electric stove, an egg is being transformed into delicious omelet with the loving and mysterious touch of my beloved better half. (Somehow whenever I cook, even following her instructions, it doesn't taste so good!). In the microwave, a cup of water is brewing for tea - to be made the English way. Last night there was terrible headache, and some remnant was still there. My wife insists on checking if I have any temperature, and defying my "qawwamuna alan nisa" status, I listened to her. Alhamdulillah, the thermometer gave a favorable reading, but I reached out for some Tylenol.
Expecting some guests this afternoon, I grabbed the convenient handle of vacuum cleaner. I already used the "miracle mop" last night before going to sleep. Hurriedly, I dressed up while I turned on the computer. Most annoyingly, yet helpfully, the computer reminds me that I have two bills to be paid and today is the scheduled date to be mailed out. Without being meticulous about my otherwise shapely handwriting, I write two checks, put it in an addressed envelope. Thank God, I don't have to lick that rather awkward-tasting stamp, because I got those self-adhesive ones. Quickly, I check my email. My parents, halfway across the globe in Bangladesh, have written me an email that was sent just a few minutes ago. I remember twenty years ago when I came to this country, I had to endure weeks to receive a letter.
No more time left. I hear a pleading reminder from downstairs, "Abbuji (daddy), it's time to go!" My two daughters are ready to go to school and I have to drop them off on my way to the university. There was no problem on the way. After two major car accidents last year, I have to be extra careful; of course, there is passionate and strict instruction from my beloved to drive most conservatively. In North America, this is generally not a big problem, as most drivers on the road are also obeying the basic traffic laws.
After reaching office, I checked messages on my voice machine, prepared an exam on the computer, quickly printed it out on a laser printer (sparing some time for me to work on this article), wrote a few things with a pen that did not spill any ink, and headed for my class room. The computer station in the classroom wasn't working properly, so I had to immediately call up the technical support and without any hassle or bribe, it was promptly taken care of.
In the afternoon, there was a faculty meeting. I am one of the two international faculty here, and my participation at this meeting as a faculty is deeply appreciated, even though I had to publicly register my concerns about some of the recent steps taken by the administration.
By now, I won't be surprised if the readers have become circumspect as to - in detailing all these routine things that are so common in most others' life as well - what do I really have in mind. Aha, the "mind"! This article is about "mind-building". As my life is not much different from most others', as my beloved's omelet is probably only as delicious as most others' (may be just a little better!), as my daily routines are also quite similarly to most others', I think it would be alright if I spare the readers from the rest of the detail.
In subjecting the respected readers to be informed about my daily routines, I was merely trying to make a point. First, let us recount some of the modern gadgets that have become routine in most of our lives. Clock, stove, microwave, thermometer, pain reliever, computer, vacuum cleaner, miracle mop, car, laser printer, ball-point pen, bank checks, self-adhesive stamps - not a single one of these gadgets or the underlying operating systems is a contribution by Muslims. Readers can take an account of their own lives and see if they can identify anything they currently use that has been discovered, invented, or even innovated by Muslims! One can also look at the organizational dimension of their lives and see whether in their society they allow people of international (particularly, of different religious) origin to be integrated as closely as we have been allowed to, or whether they can voice their concerns not merely to protest but for the sake of problem-solving, or whether they can drive with reasonable expectation that the fellow drivers on the road will obey the laws.
Within the limited scope of this paper, I would like to draw attention to a few aspects related to an important dimension of our Muslim existence and the prophetic heritage: mind-building, which must be developed in parallel with other important aspects of Islamic character-building. Those gadgets as well as organizational development or institutionalization (Iqamah) are results of a certain mind-set that are relevant to everyone. That mind-set is not necessarily a western mind-set. Rather, it is deeply and essentially Islamic too.
First, there are a number of Muslims who are overwhelmingly dogmatic. Having some balanced rationalism with solid grounding in logic is a must. Recently, a prolific writer on an internet forum, who also seems to speak for Islam, commented: "We the Muslims have taken Qur'an for granted as the authentic revelation from Allah . No arguments, no logic and no philosophy. The only thing is we have to understand it and be guided accordingly." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Muslims don't become Muslim by birth. They have to embrace it, and do so with conscious and conscientious effort in search of truth.
One of the most compelling dimensions of the Qur'an is to frequently engage us in reasoned dialog as it poses questions after questions and provokes us to think and reason with the Qur'an. "Say: 'See ye? - If your stream be some morning lost (in the underground earth), who then can supply you with clear-flowing water?" (Quran 67:30)
Secondly, besides having a balanced rationality, inculcating the spirit of inquiry - not blind submission - is an essential dimension of Islam. It is not just a prophetic tradition, but also it is exemplified in the life and personality of Ibrahim , whose legacy is the foundation of the teachings of even the Prophet Muhammad . (Quran 2:130, 135) Indeed, sometimes having doubt, even after proclaiming faith, is neither unnatural nor un-Islamic. That "no arguments, no logic and no philosophy" attitude or concept is simply alien to Islam or the Qur'an.
Call it scientific, but in appropriate contexts, demanding proof and use of one of the primary human faculty - reasoning - are essential Islamic, prophetic, and Qur'anic dimensions. The faculty of reasoning never becomes redundant: not while searching for truth, and not after we believe that we have found the truth. Those who do not employ the faculty of reasoning may grab the very first candidate that claims to be the truth, and if that candidate is embraced without appropriate scrutiny, in all likelihood, whatever was embraced will be upheld regardless whether it was really the truth in the first place or not. That is why logic and reason are never unwanted or disposable for Muslims. Islam simply teaches, and expects from, us to use those adequately and properly.
May I beg the readers' indulgence to read the following verse about Ibrahim , who even after attaining prophethood, asked Allah: "Behold! Abraham said: 'My Rabb! Show me, how you give life to the dead.' He said: 'Do you not then believe?' He said: 'Yes! but to satisfy my own understanding.' He said: 'Take four birds, tame the to turn to you; put a portion of them on every hill, and call to them; they will come to you (flying) with speed. Then know that God is Exalted in Power, Wise.'" (Quran 2:260)
This is the foundation of Islamic spirit of inquiry, search for truth, pursuit of knowledge, and understanding. We are, of course, not prophets. Genuine search for truth does not begin by taking things for granted, but by our effort to learn and verify - the essence of scientific approach. In this process, occasional doubts are very natural. As far as Islamic validity of what I am suggesting, let no one tell you any differently, because this is what the Prophet himself has said: "Allah's Apostle said, "We have more right to be in doubt than Abraham when he said, 'My Lord! Show me how you give life to the dead.' He said, 'Do you not believe?' He said, 'Yes (I believe) but to be stronger in Faith.' (Quran 2:260)" [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, #61]
Thirdly, Muslims have lost their bond with nature. Yes, there are scientists - natural and social, but not reared through an educational system or environment that popularly (and inspired by Islam) internalizes and nurtures observational bond with nature. There are so many people chanting "subhanallah", but how many does one see straying for a moment to observe how a bird flies, or caterpillar turns into butterfly, or a seed sprouts - and spontaneously - without even being conscious - say once: "Subhanallah." The first type of subhanallah chanters of the ummah of the Prophet Muhammad would be the users of all these gadgets invented or produced by the non-Muslims. Indeed, they would give louder Adhans with loudspeakers invented by the non-Muslims. The second kind of "Subhanallah" will produce the discoverers, explorers, inventors, and innovators.
Muslims need to develop a keen interest in understanding and appreciating the nature - the world of creations of which we are a part. Muslims are ready to reject any evolutionary theory, but they do not have an adequately developed and articulated alternative explanation. Study closely the following verse: "Say: 'Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation; so will Allah produce a later creation; for Allah has power over all things'" (Quran 29:20) While Allah invites and challenges us to study, understand, and appreciate how "Allah did originate creation," what have Muslims to offer on the part of the Ummah from the study during last fourteen centuries as an adequately detailed and developed account for the process of originating creation? Our explanation is simple, elegant and melodramatic! "Kun fa-yakun!" God said: "Be and there it was". All that there is to it!
One reason that partly, but importantly, accounts for this failure is that the people we call scholars or Ulama over time have completely alienated themselves from nature. Nature is not merely to be contemplated upon, but to be experienced - to be touched, felt, smelt, and observed. Consider the following verses of of the Quran from Sura al-Mulk (3-4): "He who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion will you see in the creation of the Most Gracious. So turn your vision again: Do you see any flaw? Again turn your vision a second time: (your) vision will come back to you dull and discomfited in a state of worn out."
The purpose of these verses is not that people would have such a gullibly, believing mind and attitude that they would not even bother to look for what Allah is referring to. These verses are invitation as well as challenge to humanity to study, understand, and appreciate the creation of Allah. However, the impact of these verses on our mind has been quite the opposite. Since we believe in Allah and Allah's creation is flawless, why do we need to turn our vision toward his creation? The sad lesson is that, regardless of the reason, whoever develops a keen attachment to nature - studies, explores, probes into - has a different appreciation than those who simply believe in. Furthermore, our belief in the flawlessness of Allah's creation does not take us even one step closer to put nature to our use, as others are already doing. Technological progress and understanding of nature are inseparable.
Fourthly, it seems a number of Muslims have a serious stumbling block to mind-building. The autonomous forces of modern changes in this society are driven by at least two factors. One is the problem-solving attitude and approach, which we lack due to our overwhelmingly dogmatic mind-set (and the so-called Islamic movements are absolutely no exceptions!). The other is innovation. While innovation is the key to incremental improvements in human society, Muslim mind-set psychologically is at odd with this very word. Why? The Arabic/Islamic word for this is "Bid'ah". While we are repeating every week in Jumuah prayers "All innovations are misguidance (dalala) and all misguidanced are hell-bound", who says Muslims are not smart? Their mind-set, quite intelligently and aptly, is not set up for "innovations" leading to who knows where. While avoiding bid'ah, in appropriate contexts, has importance, we rarely even clarify that while one type of innovation may be hell-bound, the other is essential to our existence. It is important to emphasize the need for more and more bid'ah in another sense.
Muslims cannot ignore the fact that those who have overwhelming technological superiority over us, they also dominate our lives in every possible way, often negatively. Technology as an autonomous force of change would continue to shape and reshape the world around us, unless we are in the driving seat of history. And, toward that end we also need to rebuild our mind-set based on a better and different understanding of the Qur'an and the Prophetic heritage.
Mind-building is a challenging and complex subject, and only a few pertinent aspects have been touched here. Feedbacks are most welcome.
Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq is an associate professor of economics and finance at Upper Iowa University. Homepage: http://www.globalwebpost.com/farooqm
The author welcomes volunteers who would like to translate this piece into their native language. Email: [email protected]
Topics: Islam, Nature And Environment Values: Honesty, Truthfulness
there might be no brain drain. For example, I read in
Pakistan many are marooned in madrassas, studying
mostly religious texts. they may be well versed in
spiritual matters, but not have the knowledge to take
care of their land, their children - life should be more
than suffering in style.
morever there is no problem with islam regarding invovation(due 2 concept of biddaha)..it has 2 b remembered that before 200 years muslims were only inovators(tank,coin,..medicine,geography..everywhere they exceled)its now dark age of muslims but we have 2 come together to come out of this crisis..it reflects writer love for muslims that he is looking into causes..
so people should not response in wrong way...west etc...remembeter the whole world belongs to god...there cannot b concept of division between muslim bcoz of region,language...it would tnot have been wrong if writer daughter would have called dad..for no language is superior in eyes of allaha
Its true that the secular societies have provided us the modern conveniences of life. But thank God, his daughters respectfully called him "Abujaan". If his "betterhalf" was raised in this materially affluent society, he would be cooking his own omelette and she wouldn't worry too much about his temperature; high chances that after 7-10 years, he would be paying child support. Then the other moral issues; the jails, the planned parenthood centers; or go listen to the law enforcement personnel stories.
Now go to the mosques at times other than Friday, Eid and Ramadaan prayers and look at the attendance. This is where our problems begin.
Our problems as Muslims are many. As intellectuals we want to live in the West, but we want some other Muslim to do the job back home. I am sure this author, and every other Muslim intellectual, will never give up his cushy job in the US and go home to reverse the brain drain. All his accomplishments and contributions are credited to his non-muslim department head. He needs to go back home so the Muslims can be credited with his achievements.
He is advocating Muslims for a critical approach to their thinking and values when most of them do not understand the ABCs of Islamic aqeedah and fiqh. If this was the cure, then we would see "secular Muslims" way ahead of observant Muslims in what they have done.
Our problem is not so much a lack of a critical approach but one of hypocracy. We want the homecooked omelette but we expect it to be prepared by someone else and ready when we get into the kitchen. We want the glamour, the recognition, without any sacrifice on our parts -- no giving up the toasters, miracle mops, self adhesive stamps, or the scenic drives through the US countrysi
Br. Adam Ibrahim Muhammed had dissected the little enlightened thought of Dr.Farooq. Somebody has to tell all the muslim professors working for universities in west that don't take the tag of intellectual too serious.
Jus' because the peers of such individuals think that they are good in what they teach, it doesn't make them expert on what Islam has to say. Even if we assume they are not talking abt Islam jus' about mind, then what is his credentials ? Professor in Economy & finance ! Let him speak about economy & financy, why about mind ?
Br. Adam has doen excellent job, so i wouldn't register my differing opinion word by word. There is no doubt this would mislead few muslim youth, but they would be people begging to be misled. ALLAH is enough for people who wants to be guided.
Now coming to Islamicity's constant effort to give podium to educated, enlightened , muslim 'moderate' intellectual so as to steer the muslim youth from the trap of 'terrorists', no difference exist between Islamicity's effort and RAND corporation's policy to intellectual deplete muslims by promoting west propogated moderation.
On a finishing note, let me ask a straight question. How many inventions and how many noble laureautes will muslim community would need to reverse their position ?
Any good came from ALLAH and all the bad from it.
I appreciate the main point the article is trying to convey .However I have a question on your comment about the alienation of scholars from the nature due to which they fail to understand the real meaning of their actions.
Why is it that the scholars fail to understand the link? It is indeed a concern for the society because they are the models or ideals to be followed. Is there a flaw in the way they are trained or a fear of trying a different approach?
Firstly, is Dr. Farooq criticising Islam or the muslim? Doing the later is understanble but in the former case its dangerous.
Secondly, the point of note is that whereas in other beliefs (most of them) the tendency is to emphasise the worldly things (materialism?) at the expence of devine duties. Islam takes care of both, and infact insist that the two must be balanced. Yes u have to be dogmatic, defend your faith, protect its tenets, and if possible pay the ultimate sacrifice in this defence. On the other hand u are asked (commanded) to utilised the universe for its being created for u and u can't live without much of its blessings. So do both so that u may prosper.
Thirdly, I don't believe that all the present day gadgets we use no muslim has a single contribution to it. Muslims are contributing to everything that is worth anything on this planet.
Fourthly, this type of ideas in my humble opinion are prone to send bad signals to feeble minded and to support the antagonists' charge that muslims are nothing but bunch of lay abouts that feed on their sweat.
Fifthly, think Allah, think Muhammad (SAW),think Islam, read qur'an and u developed ur mind. Who said so? Allah. When He says amongst other things ...Ala bi zikrillahi tadmuinnul quluub (..attention! its with the qur'an [and all forms of correct zikr] that u have a sound mind. Sadakallahul 'Azim.
may God guide your ways
On another note I don't think it is wise to claim with such assertiveness that we are not born muslims. From what I know all souls had inherently been given notion of submission to God and it is later on in their lives that they mould their path. I will say that technology can be used for good means if our intentions are right.
why 14 million Jews have won close to 200 Nobel Prizes while
only three Nobel Prizes have been won by 1.4 billion Muslims
(other than Peace Prize). That is because Jews are more secular
and progressive than the other two branches of Abrahamic
religions, and they are not concerned whether thier's is the
'fastest' growing relion. What has the world gotten from Jewish
scientists? Albert Einstein- the most brilliant of all men; Stanley
Mezor invented the first micro-processing chip. Leo Szilard
developed the first nuclear chain reactor. Peter Schultz, optical
fibre cable; Charles Adler, traffic lights; Benno Strauss, Stainless
steel; Isador Kisee, sound movies; Emile Berliner, telephone
microphone and Charles Ginsburg, videotape recorder.Gregory
Pincus (who worked close to Boston) developed the first oral
contraceptive pill.George Soros, a Jew, who has so far donated a
colossal $4 billion most of which has gone as aid to scientists
and universities around the world. Second to George Soros is
Walter Annenberg, another Jew, who has built a hundred
libraries by donating an estimated $2 billion. Jonas Salk
developed the first polio vaccine. The question why Jews have
been the most progressive people in the world? They have not
promoted hate and cultism, they are tolerant, they value
education, they are independent thinkers and they are secular.
They are not worried about whether theirs' is the fastest growing
cult on the planet. Jews lived for hundreds of years in India,
where they did not try to convert and propogate their faith
(some statistical data excerpted from Dr Farrukh Saleem). In
contrast, what has Saudi Arabia done with their billions of oil
revenues? Have they given billions to scholarships and education
Like yourself probably ,my secondary and tertiary education has been in the u.k
earlier on during my education I was struck deeply with the observation that the european teachers and researchers were so humble unassuming and lacked any sense og arrogannce.
The researches were so engrossed with the intircacies and wonder of biochemical organisation of living things thatthey cared less for their worldly goods and consumer gadgets. They ere " intoxicated" by the knowledge. They were not interested in getting cheap publicity or seeking cheap ways to tell other how good or important they were. Thse traits in the modern european thinker and researcher were the whole marks of muslim scholars in the by gone days. Imam Bukhari e,g travelled thousands of miles to collect verify sayings of the prophet sallaahlaho alaaiy wassalam. Why? He had bitten the nectar of knowledge and its "intoxication".
The real challenge for muslims in europe is to assimilate the modern knoweldge into Islamic rationale. That is not easy and needs time and evolutionary time.
They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: They are in the ranks of the righteous"
I believe that we as Muslims could adapt our way of technology (this word is literally defined as "the way things are done") without sacrificing the basic tenets of our faith.Do We pay too much attention to ritual to keep up with the rest of the world? Just as a Muslim woman should not be married to a non Muslim man because it puts Islam in the submissive position in a relationship, we should not let the world do the same to us as Muslims by running ahead of us with developments and leaving us in the sand. The Islam Empire was once the jewel of civilization, Do you remember or have you studied it? Maybe we should stop hating and start outwitting and outdoing the Non muslims that have advanced beyond us. Thank you Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq, for an eye opening article!
if not for the vast oil reservese God has given to middle eastern countries, we won't even have this pretend respect from the western world that we receive today.
Allah help muslims.
Advanced and Better technology have given Heroshima and Nagasaki, technology without morals. (Depleted Uranium is still being used).
Morals is what the Mullahs work on. Without good morals technology is just another waste.
Right now we have a moral problem on planet earth.
Currently there are millions of muslim scientists, doctors and engineers etc around the globe who knows not less.
But if u think spoon is better than chop sticks and who designed what, that all is irrelevant in this global market economy.
Because we are in the era where GMO food is very high tech but is not really any better than natural food. But infact is harmful for the consumers. What our cows should eat, and what they should not, is still a valid question in the west, with all the high tech stuff and billions of funding from USDA.
We (muslims) need to understand the diffence between innovation Design and R&D. And what it takes to do that.
and Why the best scientist today are still living in former Soviet Union? And why they r so important for silicon valley? or anyone else in that matter.
Historically, this self reflection allowed many Arabs to improve their life and become Muslims.
Questioning is a strong part of the faith. How else would the Muslim world have become the leader in science, medicine, math and many other field so long ago?
Personally, the more I do self reflectiona and question aspects of our faith, I become even a stronger believer. I think that may be the idea.