The Life After Research
Due to restriction at Keele University of acting as full-time supervisor of PhD students by Emeritus Professors, I had to give up research. I then turned my attention to another of my life-long passion, Muslim Reform. The book Science Under Islam [www.scienceunderislam.com] is my first work on a religious topic, which was prompted by my interest in science, my concern at the current Muslim weakness in science, and my desire to see Muslims flourish in science (and technology), as they once did in the past. The success of this book, which featured on Radio-4-Sunday, inspired me to undertake further work on Muslim Reform.
The fundamental objective of religious reform in the 21st Century is in my view, to make that religion a force for good for all humanity, by bringing out and advocating to its adherents to follow, the inherent humanitarian characteristics of the religion. Islam imposes two sets of rights on every Muslim (i) Huququllah – the rights of God, which is interpreted to mean as the individual religious duties to God, such as prayer, fasting, etc; and (ii) Huququl Ibad – the rights of the Creation (of God), which is interpreted to mean as the duties to God’s creation, in particular duties to other human beings. Thus the objective of religious reform in Islam as viewed above falls under Huququl Ibad, and as such it is, I believe, an Islamic duty of every Muslim. As I see it, Muslim reform has two inter-twined constituents or components, feeding into each other: intellectual and civic (social), which are the necessary ingredients for Islam to become a strong force for good for all humanity in the 21st Century.
The intellectual constituent must be based on the premise that the pursuit of knowledge is in itself a virtue. This philosophy of intellectual pursuit from the Greeks created the modern Western Civilisation. The Muslims abandoned it, dividing knowledge into useful knowledge which was declared halal (i.e. permissible), and useless knowledge which was declared haram (i.e. forbidden). This utilitarian approach to knowledge is a cause for the decline of the Islamic civilisation. Muslims invented algebra, but they declared its study haram as they could not see any use for it. Equality higher mathematics, geometry and even physics were declared haram as they did not find any use for them. Sadly even the celebrated Arab scholar Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406 CE) could not escape from the dungeon of the Muslim orthodoxy and supported the haram ban on the study of physics. In fact, the list of forbidden subjects was so long that there was not much left in the secular area to study.
All innovations were also declared haram, and later divided like, knowledge, into useful innovations which were halal, and useless innovations, which were haram. This meant that all innovations become automatically haram at the beginning, since it takes times to demonstrate the usefulness of an innovation. Hence, any Muslim involved in an innovation is doing something haram, for which the innovator must be punished. Of course, that innovation could later be found to be halal, but by then the punishment might already have been carried out. Some examples of former haram innovations: clocks were haram for ages, and then made halal; the use of microphone was haram for a long time (even in my childhood) until much later when it became halal; and more recently the use of the Internet was declared haram in 1996, now halal. Printing, originally a Chinese invention, was developed by the Muslims as a technology, but it was considered a useless innovation by the Ottomans and hence it remained haram for about three centuries. My final example is a chilling one. In 1638, one Hazerfan Ahmed Celebi flew down with artificial wings from a high tower in Istanbul. He was punished for this innovation of flying, with banishment to the Algerian deserts, where he died aged 31. Some 300 years later, the flying has become halal and Turkey has honoured him by naming after him one of its three airports around Istanbul. Is this an exciting reward that will inspire a Muslim to innovate? [see my book Science Under Islam for more].
The civic constituent comprises what I call the FERDH issues for Muslims, the acronym FERDH standing for:
F Freedom of speech and expression
E Equal treatment of all faiths and no faith
R Rule of law
D Democratic government and institutions
H Human rights (including of course gender equality)
There is an Arabic word Ferdh which refers to the “must-duties” of every Muslim. Observe that the UN Charter of Human Rights does not include Democratic Government and Institutions, but FERDH does. Having elaborated the twin concepts of the intellectual and civic constituents of the reform required, I am aware that such a major reform with the lofty goal of making Islam a strong force for good for all humanity in the 21st Century cannot be achieved overnight – in fact it will be a long journey, spanning possibly over decades, a goal into which I hope all reformist Muslims will contribute as a duty under Huququl Ibad.
Revisiting the topic of the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, I am convinced that we Muslims urgently need a Campaign for More Science Among Muslims (CAMSAM), This was and is the basis for my launching the CAMSAM campaign a few years ago. The term science is used here in its broadest sense, to encompass technology as well. As part of my commitment to the goal of reform, I have so far campaigned for both CAMSAM and FERDH issues through my former website www.muslimreform.org which is now replaced by this present website. Finally, to bring science to the Muslim door, I have also started a blog Science Digest (Scid) for Muslim Thinkers on interesting science issues such as Higgs boson, as in: www.scienceunderislam.blogspot.com. My next book on Muslim reform tentatively titled Universal Values Under Islam – An Ijtihad into Quran and Hadith is intended to focus on universal values for multi-faith society (befitting the 21st Century life), that can be derived from Quran and hadith using what is called ijtihad (personal striving). The book is intended to follow my new blog on this topic, the first of which My Ijtihad into Human Rights Under Islam, has already been posted in: www.universalvaluesunerislam.blogspot.com.
I am also involved in two other books (i) A Brief History of Bengal and (ii) My Autobiography, eventually to be published as Internet books, as elaborated further in the next section The Life in the Family. Finally, I am a member of the Keele Inquiry Group of several retired science professors, who seek, as pastime, a deeper understanding of some science issues, such as in Cosmology, Quantum Physics, Particle Physics and Neuroscience. As a member of this group, I have produced many notes (articles) for my personal understanding of some tricky and deeper issues on these topics, as held in this website under science notes in the section Archive of Current Works. The rest of this section presents my search for Muslim reformists in the UK, which I began after the publication of my book Science Under Islam.
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