I was invited to Rochdale 6th Form College to Enrichment Learning sessions on Islam’s input to Human Civilisation over the centuries. In a time where Islam is being equated with backwardness and its role in Muslim Society is being questioned, these sessions aimed to highlight the hidden History of Islamic Civilisation which left a profound mark on Human History for over eight centuries.
I titled my sessions “Around the Muslim World in 1400 years” to detail the Scientific, Technological, Educational and Civilisational Progress Islam contributed to the World, taking students down a journey of discovery, reflection and forward thinking.
Students were presented how the Mobile phones which we use today would not have been available had it not been for the the works of Al-Jabr who was the architect of Algebra. Because of Maths, concepts and designs like algorithms could be used for Programming and coding to create operating systems which allow our smart phones to function as they do today.
Students were surprised to hear that the first Hospital in the World was in Baghdad and that it was Al-Khwarizmi’s design of surgical instruments that allowed complex operations to take place. Ibn Sina’s Surgical manuals detailed cures for illnesses, the Nervous System, Blood transfusion and many other medical issues that were then translated from Arabic to Greek to English and used as Standard Text books in Europe when curing the ill.
Discussions took place on How Muslims developed tools like the compass to aid them in their travel to open up new lands to the Justice of Islam and began to understand Astronomy and Navigation.
The Muslim World was the leader in human Civilisation. They designed the best roads, Houses and even contributed to practices like the idea of the three course meal and graduation Ceremonies. In fact Muslim Spain possessed the Worlds most advanced Sewage System whilst at the same time England was suffering from the plague due to mismanagement of waste.
The session concluded that these achievements were hugely inspired by Islam which drove people living under a Fully Functioning Caliphate to excel in all aspects of Life. So Medical discovery was inspired from the Holy Prophet (SAW)’s hadith when he said “For every disease there is a cure, so seek the cure” and the Hadith “Purity is half of Faith” led the development of cosmetics industry featuring deodorants, toothpaste, Soaps, perfume and bathroom facilities that relied upon a phenomenal sewage system .
Students were encouraged to research more about Islam’s Contribution to Human Civilisation and to equate Shariah And Islam to progress and Prosperity that many parts of the Muslim world are calling a return back to.
Students left with the below Transcript of a leaflet A speech by the Ex-ceo of Hewlett Packard- Carly Fiorina
There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world. It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.
One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.
And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.
Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.
While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.
Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.
And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population–that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions.
This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.
In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership– bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership.