Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

FREEDOM – Islamic reflections on Liberty

December 25, 2016

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

FREEDOM

Reflections by Imam Usama Hasan, Head of Islamic Studies at Quilliam Foundation, in preparation for the Inspire Dialogue Foundation conference in Cambridge, Saturday 17th September 2016, hosted by Lord Rowan Williams, Emeritus Archbishop of Canterbury

There are many universal human rights: arguably, freedom is one of the basic ones, intertwined with life itself. As Tipu Sultan, the famous Indian resistance leader against the British, exclaimed: “better to live one day, free as a lion, than to live as a slave for a thousand years.” Caliph Omar once berated one of his commanders, who had followed the common pre-Islamic medieval wartime practice of enslaving the women and children of a defeated army, asking: “how could you enslave people whom God had created free?!” echoing Moses’ defiant response to Pharaoh in the Qur’an (26:22), which asks: “is this the favour, of which you are reminding me, that you have enslaved the Children of Israel?”

Theologically, true faith is based on free will and free choice: any practice that is not free, including faith and religious observance, cannot be genuine. Hence the famous Qur’anic declaration (2:256), “There is no compulsion in religion!”

The centrality of freedom to faith raises important issues: drugs, alcohol, mental illness, carnal lusts and social pressures all mean that our choices and decisions in life are not totally free. How, then, are these actions judged by fellow humans and by God? In particular, one of the goals of religious practice has always been to remove internal shackles that inhibit our expression of humanity, enabling greater self-awareness and realisation of our potential. Thus, a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad says that “the world is a prison for the believer,” i.e. the moral person, and great sages survived imprisonment because they were, internally, free spirits. Ideas of freedom and liberty have, of course, strongly shaped the modern world since the 18th century with the abolition of slavery, French and American republican ideals and anti-colonial independence movements.

It is my firm belief that the great philosophers, sages and prophets: Moses, Mary, Christ and Muhammad, Buddha and Confucius, and men and women of God through the ages, supported the liberation of men and women of all colours, races and religions, children and slaves, individuals and populations, from the yokes of tyranny and oppression. Our modern heroes in this regard range from Wilberforce to Jefferson to Gandhi, Jinnah, Martin Luther King and Mandela.

But today, we still have our modern forms of slavery: bonded and child labour; entire multiple-generation families working in sweatshop factories; highly-organised international rings dealing in human trafficking, including that of children, for financial and sexual exploitation. Therefore, we need to address the above problems by rekindling the same spirit that historically liberated children from labour into education, slaves from enslavement into liberty, peoples from colonisation into independence, and people of colour from segregation and apartheid into civic equality.

Tony Blair, whilst UK Prime Minister, once said in an historic speech on Capitol Hill that “to be American is to be free.” In reality, as spiritual-animal beings made in the image of the Divine, to be human is to be free. Now, let’s continue with working towards inner and outer freedom, and sharing it with our fellow travellers, with the goal of reaching our full and common humanity.

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Islam and Science workshop presentations – London 2013

July 27, 2015

Bismillah. I have been working on the report for the “Islam & Science – The Big Questions” (of science and Islamic theology) Task Force that I convened in Istanbul in February 2015, chaired by Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, by the grace of God.  The Task Force report will be published in a few weeks, God-willing.

This reminded me that we had not sufficiently circulated the presentations from our “Islam & Science” workshop in London from 2013, some of which the current Task Force builds on.  So, here are the presentations from that workshop, as well as the final report. These should be of interest to anyone interested in cutting-edge discussions about Islam and science, religion and science, etc. University students should find these presentations a useful resource, especially for their own dissertations and theses. Enjoy!

front page of Islam Science Workshop

1- Ibn Sina – Ehsan Masood

2- Science and Religion – Jean Staune

3- Islam and Modern Science – Nidhal Guessoum: slides unavailable, but you may view a similar lecture with similar slides here (Faraday Institute, University of Cambridge)

4- 1001 Inventions Exhibition – Yasmin Khan

5- Science Policy and Politics in the Islamic World – Athar Osama

6- Theories of Evolution – Jean Staune

6a- Lying in the Name of God – Jean Staune

7- Evolution and Islam – Nidhal Guessoum: slides unavailable, but you may read one of his articles on the topic here

8- Islam and the Theory-Fact of Evolution – Usama Hasan

9- Islamic Cosmology – Bruno Guiderdoni

10- Islam Science Ethics – Usama Hasan

Islam and Science Workshop 2013 – Final Report

 

Al-Mas’udi: The Meadows of Gold (Muruj al-Dhahab)

January 21, 2014

Bismillah.

The following selections (many paraphrased) are from the traveller and historian Al-Mas’udi “Muruj al-Dhahab” or The Meadows of Gold, translated by Paul Lunde & Caroline Stone, Penguin Great Journeys No. 2, 2007. A good, light read, like all the 15-20 books in this Penguin series.

Mas’udi was from Baghdad and lived c. 276-344 H / 890-956 CE.

ON THE STATE OF ISLAM IN HIS TIME

Islam has weakened and declined. The Hajj is in peril. Jihad has ceased. Islam has always been triumphant until this year 331 H [943 CE].

ON SOME CAUCASIANS

The Kashak [Circassians] are Zoroastrian, most handsome of the Caucasus inhabitants. The women are famous for bedchamber delights.

ON MASUDI’S ENCOUNTERS WITH JEWS & CHRISTIANS

I debated leading Jewish scholars: Abu Kathir and his student Fayyumi (Rabbinical); Yehuda b. Yusuf, student of (the Sabian) Thabit b. Qurra.

All the churches of Syria, Egypt and Byzantium owe their origin to Queen Helena, mother of Constantine. Her Greek name is Elena, having a numeric value of 100.

I met the earliest Christian Arab historian, Ibn Faraj, in Egypt. I debated the Trinity with Dankha (a Christian theologian) in Baghdad and Tikrit in 313/926.

ON THE TRAVELS OF THE GREEK ACADEMY

Athens
Alexandria/Rome (Augustus/Theodosius) Antioch (Umar bin Abdulaziz reign) Harran (Mutawakkil reign).

ON THE MOST LEARNED MEN OF HIS TIME

The most learned men of my time are the philosophers al-Farabi & Ibn Adi (Christian). Ibn Adi has the same Pythagorean philosophical system as Muhammad Zakariyya al-Razi.

ON THE FIRE-TEMPLE AT PERSEPOLIS

The Persian temple at Istakhr (Persepolis) had idols, then just a fire. It has huge stone pillars and horses, and is said by some Muslims to be Solomon’s Temple.

MISCELLANEOUS OBSERVATIONS ON ASIA (FROM EGYPT TO INDIA, CHINA & SE ASIA)

I saw peacocks in India: these have beautiful plumage. Those brought west to the lands of Islam: the plumage is dulled. [Evolution/adaptation]

Oranges were first brought from India c. 912 to Oman, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. They lost their original sweet smell and nice colour due to changes in the air, soil and water.

On an Indian war elephant: when his keeper died, he didn’t eat or drink for days, showing grief or sorrow like bereaved man, with constant tears.

The rhinoceros is found in India. Some of its bones are fused, so it is unable to bend its knees and therefore to lie down. So it sleeps standing, leaning against a tree. It chews the cud. Indians, including Muslim, eat its flesh.

Upper Egypt exports dates, raisins, grapes, alum and vitriol. [Alum = potash = potassium aluminium sulfate, KAlSO4. Vitriol = sulfuric acid, H2SO4]

Indians are fond of music and singing. They forbid wine, not due to religion but to protect the mind and reason. If a king drinks wine, they hold that he deserves to be deposed since it is impossible for him to govern with clouded reason.

Most Tibetans are of Himyarite Yemeni origin. Their kings are called Tubba’, a Yemeni title [cf. Qur’an 50:14]. The rest of the Tibetans are Turkic, and there is no more populous group of Turks anywhere in the world.

The Nicobar and Andaman Islands have cannibals and elephants. Descriptions of Sarandib [Sri Lanka], Sumatra, Kalahbar [Kedah, Malaysia], the Spice Islands.

Spices that come from SE Asia include: camphor, aloes, cloves, sandalwood, nutmeg, mace, cardamoms and cubebs.

The Ring of Fire is a series of volcanic islands near China.

The “island of music” is also here [SE Asia]. The sound of drums, flutes, lutes, rhythmic beating of feet and hand-clapping is heard from a distance. Some sailors claim that the Antichrist has taken up residence there.

The people of Qimar [Cambodia] have fresh breath because, like Muslims, they use toothpicks. Qimaris abhor adultery, indecency and alcoholic drinks.

The story of Habbar bin al-Aswad, an Arab notable of Basra who left during the Zanj [black slaves’] rebellion there, is entertaining. He went to China via India. A Chinese king showed his Arab visitor portraits of prophets including Noah, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. The king stated that Noah’s flood didn’t reach India or China.

He further showed him portraits of Indian and Chinese prophets’ portraits, depicting them as pointing the index finger to the heavens, warning of the power of God, or making a circle with the thumb and index finger, to indicate that creation is a circle.

[Muslims daily indicate the unity of God with the right index finger (cf. Michaelangelo’s famous painting depicting God and Adam). During prayer, they also sometimes make a circle with the thumb and middle finger, following the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Furthermore, according to a sound hadith: Umm Salama emigrated to Abyssinia with her first husband Abu Salama as part of the early sacred migration (hijra). In the churches there, she saw images of prophets with index fingers raised (cf. Michaelangelo again), a feature of daily Islamic prayers. See Albani, Sifah Salah al-Nabi or The Prophet’s Prayer Described, for these hadiths. – U.H.]

The people of China are the most skilful in painting and arts. No other nation can compare with them in any craft whatsoever.

China was prosperous due to its justice until the Huang Chao rebellion of 878. He attacked Khanfu, massacring 200,000 Muslims, Christians, Jews and “fire-worshippers.” [Zoroastrians/Parsees]

The “Meadows of Gold” (Muruj al-Dhahab) was completed in 947, during the Buwayhid reign. The book is like a necklace of scattered pearls strung together. I have not sought to support any particular sect or doctrine, but to report human history as it has unfolded.

END

[Categories History]

Usama Hasan, https://unity1.wordpress.com

Islam and Science Workshop 2013

November 27, 2012
Bismillah.  This is a cross-post from http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/events/islam-science-workshop-2013/

Islam & Science Workshop 2013

FINAL CALL: Deadline extended to 9am on Monday 14th January 2013

Quilliam, in association with the American University of Sharjah, Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris and Muslim-Science.com, are pleased to announce a workshop entitled, “Islam and Science: A Reasoned Approach” for students and young researchers to be held on 18th-20th January 2013 at a prestigious location in Central London, UK.

This event will be the latest in a series of educational workshops that have previously been held in Algiers, Paris and other locations. A “reasoned approach” will be taken to Islam and Science: one that is well informed, balanced and constructive. The workshop will represent a unique opportunity for Muslim students and young researchers to discover the contemporary field of ‘science and religion’ through lectures by, and in-depth discussions with, internationally-recognised thinkers and experts in this field, including Prof. Nidhal Guessoum, Prof. Jean Staune, Prof. Bruno Guiderdoni, Ehsan Masood, Dr. Athar Osama and Dr. Usama Hasan.

Participants can attend the workshop by invitation only. There will be 20 invitations and in order to be selected, potential participants must complete and submit this application form (also below) and an accompanying essay on a subject that directly relates to the general theme of the workshop and to the topic of ‘Islam and Science.’

The eligibility criteria to apply for an invitation to the workshop are as follows:

• Participants must be either senior undergraduate students, graduate students, or young researchers (post-doctoral fellows or equivalent).
• The essays submitted by potential participants must be 1000-2000 words in English with an abstract of roughly 150 words.
• The essays must present an argument representative of the author’s opinion. They must be written in an academic style and include bibliographic references for every citation or factual statement, while avoiding being a summary or compilation of ideas expressed by other people.
• Potential participants should try to be consistent with the “reasoned approach” of this workshop and project on the theme of “Islam and Science.” In their essays, potential participants must avoid excessively focusing on “separationist” approaches which relegate religion to people’s private lives and science to the material world, or “concordist” approaches which “find” specific science in the scriptures and end up merely trivialising Islamic culture and its relationship to science.
• All essays must be submitted by email to workshop@QuilliamFoundation.org by 9am on Monday 14th January 2013. Essays received after this time will not be considered.

• Telephone interviews may be conducted to complete the selection process and to verify participants’ interest in, and familiarity with, the subject.
• The best essays may either be presented verbally by their authors during the workshop or published on the project website.The 20 participants who demonstrate their aptitude to fully benefit from the workshop will have all of their expenses paid (including transport, hotel accommodation and catering) and receive valuable educational material (books, articles, DVD, etc.).

Application Form
Islam & Science Workshop in London
18-20 January, 2013

Full name: ………………………………………………………………………..
Date of Birth: …………………………………………………………………………………..
Postal Address: …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Telephone Number:…………………………………………………………………………………………………
Current educational / employment status:……………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Academic Qualifications (include college and university attended): …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Email Address: …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Website (if applicable): ………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Important: Please attach this form to a short essay of between one thousand and two thousand words, include an abstract of roughly one hundred and fifty words, and send to the following email address: Workshop@QuilliamFoundation.org by 9am on Monday 14th January 2013.

LECTURERS:

Nidhal Guessoum: Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Associate Dean at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates; he has published several books on science with direct or indirect relevance to Islam, as well as dozens of scholarly papers in astrophysics and numerous articles on science, education, and culture. He has also organized two conferences (and co-edited the proceedings) on the application of Astronomy to Islamic problems.

Bruno Abdelhaq Guiderdoni: Director of the Observatory of Lyon (France), his main research being in galaxy formation and evolution, with over 100 papers published in the field. He is also a prominent Muslim figure in France; from 1993 to 1999 he was in charge of a French public television program ‘Knowing Islam’; he is a member of the Board of Advisors of the John Templeton Foundation.

Ehsan Masood: Science policy expert, writer, teacher, journalist, and broadcaster. He is the editor of Research Fortnight and Research Europe and teaches at Imperial College London. Masood’s latest book is Science and Islam: A History, in which he tells the story of how science developed during Islam’s imperial period, from 800 to 1500; the book was the official tie-in to a three-part documentary series on BBC Television presented by the award-winning Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey.

Jean Staune: with degrees in Philosophy of Science, Mathematics, Paleontology, Political Science, Computer Science, and Management, he has taught at two Pontifical universities, in China at Shandong University, and is currently an adjunct professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne; he is also the founder and General Secretary of the Interdisciplinary University of Paris, and has published several best-selling books on science, philosophy and religion in France.

Usama Hasan: Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam, he has a PhD, MA & MSc from the Universities of Cambridge and London in Theoretical Physics and Artificial Intelligence, and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. Also a traditionally-trained Imam with certification in Qur’an and Hadith, he is the author of a number of translations and academic papers in the fields of Qur’an, Hadith, Islamic law and ethics. He is a regular contributor to mainstream, international media.

Athar Osama: Science and innovation policy consultant and advisor. He is the founder of Muslim-Science.com and the Pakistan Innovation Foundation.

Others TBC