Islam is arguably the most holistic religion in the world. It provides insights and guidance for Muslims across a broad range of topics relating to all areas of life. Whether it is our income, our food or how we treat people. And the Qu’ran, is central to all of that. This is something we all know, and are pretty proud of, right?
Another thing most Muslims know and are proud of is the fact Islam was the catalyst for some of the biggest innovations in the modern world in our Golden Age, which spanned from the 9th Century to 16th Century, changing the landscape of the world as we know it. Some of these innovations included algebra, optics, architecture, geometry, Islamic arts, calligraphy, university, knowledge translation, astronomy, women’s rights, cheques and money, even that staple we all rely on for work, coffee! (Think about that next time you’re ordering your caramel macchiato with whipped cream!)
So yeah, all this is awesome and helps us feel proud of our heritage and history, etc etc. Brilliant.
But this is exactly what was on my mind.
What exactly happened to us? Why is that no longer the case? When did the innovation and excellence stop — and more importantly, how do we bring it back?
In the last 500 years the Islamic world has unfortunately seen a stagnation (to put it mildly) in terms of socio-economic and scientific progress.
Once upon a time, the richest man in the history of the world was a Muslim, but not today.
Once upon a time, the greatest healer in the world was Muslim. Not today.
Once upon a time, the greatest general in the world was Muslim. Not today.
The greatest explorer… You get the idea.
There’s 1.6 billion of us (give or take a few), so we’re not exactly short of numbers…
Thinking more deeply about it, I don’t think it’s a coincidence, that the time they thrived was when the attitudes to learning were very, very different to the way they are today. Then, they considered all forms of seeking knowledge a form of worshipping God — and it led them to major discoveries as they sought to excel and go as far as possible due to their love of Allah.
They saw learning anything beneficial as worship — period. They were inquisitive, driven and were motivated by following the Qur’anic instruction to ponder, reflect and use their intellect in a way that would directly benefit mankind.
Today, we have separated science from the spiritual. We treat secular knowledge differently from sacred knowledge. Faith and reason are seen as mutually exclusive. Our love of learning is not what it once was — and as a result, despite our large numbers we are nowhere near those glory days. We honestly believe this is in direct conflict with our purpose and Allah’s direction set out for us in the Qur’an which is to become someone who seeks knowledge from the cradle to the grave.