Many Muslim scientists like Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, known in the West as Alhazen, and Muḥammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (Algorithmi), made great contributions that shaped the modern world. In the 9th century, Muslim inventor Abbas ibn Firnas was the first to design and test a flying machine, hundreds of years before da Vinci drew plans of his own. Hospitals as we know them today believed to have come from 9th century Egypt.
Coffee, computers and piston engines – could we imagine a world without them? These are intricate parts of every day life for most of us and the knowledge that led to them was either invented by or passed down through the ancient Muslim world. That is the theme of an exhibit in London’s Science Museum and it’s a far cry from the view held by some that the Muslim and Western World represent a “clash of civilizations.”
A simple cup of coffee has become an intricate part of so many cultures. It’s called “Kawha”- where it was first developed as a drink – in the Arabian Peninsula, in today’s Yemen.
Professor Salim al-Hassani of the University of Manchester explains the coffee beans were actually brought to Yemen from the Horn of Africa, from Ethiopia.
“Well of course, coffee was invented in the very early years of Islam – a guy called Khaled in Ethiopia, a young man looking after his sheep,” al-Hassani said.
The sheep seemed to like the beans. So the young man took the beans to Yemen – the story goes – and the drink was developed and spread like wildfire.
And there were many other inventions or innovations passed on by the early Muslim world from the 7th Century onward, says Hassani.
“One of them is the invention of the university. This was done in the year 850 by a young lady called Fatima al-Fihri in the city of Fez in Morocco,” al-Hassani said. “The first university as we know it in the world, giving degrees and so on.”
And that’s the theme of this exhibit at the London Science Museum. It’s called 1001 inventions: the Muslim Heritage, a bit like “1001 Arabian Nights,” the well known fairy tale.
The exhibit in London focuses on scientific or technological inventions and advances that changed our world – from some of the earliest universities, to innovations in medicine, hygiene, pumps, and water wheels.
Some says these important achievements have been forgotten amid the news often coming out of the Muslim world today that focuses so much on strife and terrorism. But, ask just about anyone on the streets of, say, Cairo or Damascus today and they haven’t forgotten – they’ll readily tell you about Islam’s glory days – not just its conquests but its cultural, scientific and technological innovations.”
These advances came at the height of the Islamic empire’s glory when it spread from the Middle East, across North Africa to southern Spain and beyond.
A time when Muslim scholars and inventors were at the forefront, says Hassani.
“During that time, there were enormous contributions in science and technology that we have forgotten about and that comes to us from other civilizations,” al-Hassani said. “And, it came to use over a very important civilization and that is the Muslim civilization.”
Muslims absorbed knowledge – from India, China, the Greeks, the ancient Egyptians – and passed it on. One exhibit exemplifies that mixture – a giant clock featuring an Indian elephant and Chinese dragons and using ancient Greek water works. The one here is a replica of the original designed by the Muslim inventor, mathematician and engineer al-Jazari in the early 13th Century.
Anne Marie Brennan teaches forensic biology at London’s South Bank University and is fascinated by these innovations.
“Everybody has to love the elephant clock,” Brennan said. “The elephant clock is wonderful because it is like a United Nations clock. It has all the elements of different civilizations and I like it as a scientist because it shows that science doesn’t have to be boring and sterile and plain, but it can be decorative and it can also pay homage to the cultures that bring it forward.”
And then there is mathematics and algebra. In general, our numbers are known as “Arabic numerals” today, but it wasn’t always so, says professor Hassani.
“The numbers that we have today – 1,2,3,4 – they’re called Arabic numerals, but actually the Arabs at the time called them Indian numerals,” al-Hassani said.
And, the number “0” for example – “zephir” in Arabic – was used first by early Arab scholars as an integral part of mathematical equations. And that’s part of the all important formula of zeros and ones that was crucial to the development of computers and other new technology.
CAIRO – A Church of
“Wives are to submit to their husbands in
“This is the way God has ordered their
MacLeay, a member of the General Synod,
“It would seem that women should remain
The comments were backed by MacLeay’s
“We know marriage is not working. We only
“Wives, submit to your own husbands.”
The comments drew ire of women
“How can they talk that way in the 21st
“No wonder the Church is losing touch if
The parishioner vowed to shun the Church
“I will not be going back to that church
The Church of England preachers were also
“What kind of medieval sermon is that? We
“I have already cancelled my direct debit
But the Church of England preachers
“I am passionate about helping people to
“I did not set out to unnecessarily offend
MacLeay, the Church Vicar, also defended
“There are times when the Bible challenges
“It recognizes that women are fully equal
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Misuse of Wakf properties: Who is Responsible for It?
Submitted by admin on 9 February 2010 – 11:26pm.
* Indian Muslim
By Syed Sultan Mohiddin
The Outlook (September 21, 2009) made a shocking revelation about the colossal delinquency by the Wakf Boards. The cover page printed these shameful letters: WAKF – INDIA’S BIGGEST LAND SCANDAL. Followed by this it said: “4,00,000 acres – 3,00,000 properties. Wakf boards around the country are doling out land meant for poor Muslims for a pittance.” Inside the glossy magazine, the cover story by Saba Naqvi has unveiled the height of dishonesty and lackadaisical attitude of the Wakf Boards.
The report has exposed as to how the Wakf Board officials, far from being the guardians of the Muslim properties worth thousands of crores of rupees, have allowed the encroachments, given the occupation of prime lands on ridiculously low rents and even resorted to outright sale of priceless properties. All these disgraceful acts they are doing, the author alleged, “to fill their pockets”. Some examples cited in the article would surely boil the blood of even a suave Muslim. The Maharashtra Wakf Board sold 4,532 square metres plot at the posh Altamount Road in Mumbai to Mukesh Ambani, for a measly Rs.16 lakh. He is building a 27-storey skyscraper on it. By any mean standards, the land would have fetched Rs.21 crore in the market. The 90,000 sq ft prime property at Lal Bagh in Bangalore with market value of about Rs.90 crore was sold for just 1 crore. In Aurangabad, 14 acres of land worth Rs.60 crore was sold for Rs.8 crores. [Courtesy: The Outlook].
Though one should categorically blame the Wakf Boards for the misuse of wakf properties, there are other factors too which have contributed to the hopeless situation. The snail’s pace in the justice-delivery system where cases are not cleared for decades on end, and the callous attitude of the local authorities that never bothered to execute the judicial orders are equally responsible. Even the Wakf laws do not have sufficient teeth to bite the offenders.
A Muslim graveyard in Kadapa (Andhra Pradesh) is a classic case to prove the point in question. An extent of 1.10 acre was granted by the Nawab of Kadapa around 260 years ago for its use as the burial ground. The graveyard had been under the control and use by the Muslim community until 1966, when suddenly a few hoodlums occupied around 22 cents of the land by flattening the tombs and erecting some huts over them.
THE ENDLESS SAGA
The Muthavalli of the graveyard, Mr. Allabaksh Miah, promptly approached the District authorities and pleaded for removal of the encroachments. The Wakf Board also addressed several letters to the District Collector informing that the graveyard is the Wakf Board property and no part of the same can be allotted to private persons. In the year 1967, the then District Collector, Mr. R.M. Sastry, on receipt of a letter from the Secretary of Wakf Board, Andhra Pradesh state, Hyderabad ordered the Municipal authorities to remove the encroachments. The Muthavalli went from pillar to post, pleading for the implementation of the orders from the Collector but the concerned authorities did not take any action to remove the encroachments.
The hooligans resorted to further encroachment of land by demolishing a few more tombs in 1970. This time, the Muthavalli decided to seek justice from the Judiciary. It has taken 12 years for the Court to give its verdict. In the year 1982, the Sub-Court of Kadapa in its judgement clearly said: “The District Collector has the right to remove the encroachments if there are any, taking into consideration the sentiments of the Muslim community.” The High Court too upheld the verdict of the sub-court, Kadapa in its judgement of 1987. As the District Collector did not care to execute the court orders – the Muthavalli got frustrated and handed over the maintenance of the graveyard in the year 1988 to the Committee of Roshan Munawwar Mosque, which is also situated in the premises of the same graveyard.
Now it was the turn of Mr. Jaffer Baig, President of Roshan Munawwar Mosque Committee, to walk through a thorny and exasperating road. He was a high-ranking officer in the government service as the Superintending Engineer before he retired in 1985. Initially he thought of leading a hassle-free life after retirement, but gave up the thought when he knew about the illegal occupancy of a Muslim graveyard. He took up the cause of liberating the occupied land. During the past 20 years, he did not leave any stone unturned to secure the wakf land from the clutches of illegal occupants. A massive Dharna organised under his leadership in 1993, was participated by around 5000 Muslims and a large number of secular and peace-loving non-Muslims. It jolted the then District Collector to convene a meeting at his bungalow by summoning the Committee members and the encroachers. A promise was made to the Committee that the matter will be resolved in a few days. ‘That day’ never came. As the years rolled by, Mr. Baig approached the authorities tirelessly without renouncing hope. The Civil Court of Kadapa passed the buck to the Wakf Board Tribunal in April 2000. The case is pending for disposal in the Wakf Board tribunal for nine long years! When this writer met Mr. Jaffer Baig at his house, he was preparing to go to Hyderabad to appear for the 157th adjournment in the Wakf Board tribunal. He is doing too much at his ripe age of 84 years. “Do you see light at the end of the tunnel?” asked this writer. “Why not? I do have faith in the law of the land,” he retorted.
The Wakf properties are under the clutches of unauthorised hands – in the name of lease, tenancy or encroachment. As the statistics reveals, it is the government, which is in the possession of large wakf properties. What the Muslim leadership and intelligentsia should fight for is for the passing of a law on the floor of the Parliament that gives statutory powers to the Wakf Boards, to enable them to take possession of all the notified Wakf lands in the country on a time-bound plan. Besides, the State Wakf Boards should be cleansed of the political brats who shall be replaced with bureaucrats having impeccable integrity.
The Wakf properties in the country are more than sufficient to address the myriad problems faced by the Muslim community like illiteracy, unemployment and socio-economic backwardness. The trillion-dollar question is: Will the Muslim parliamentarians raise their voice in the parliament for a special law with statutory powers to the Wakf Boards?
First published in Radiance Viewsweekly Vol. XLVII No.30, 2009-11-01 issue.