Muslims take high pride and boast about the critical contributions “Islamic Sciences” to civilization. It would require considerable space just to recite the many so-called crucial discoveries were allegedly ascribed to Muslims’ inventions. We are told that Muslim scientists originated in the Islamic world laid the ground to public hospitals, libraries, and universities. Muslim scientists laid the foundations of agricultural science and invented the coffee. Muslim scientists developed theories of evolution long before Darwin and proposed laws of gravitation that were proved by Newton centuries later on; Muslim scientists invented “flight control surfaces” that are “believed to have come from the medieval Islamic world.”
It is amazing, in fact confusing and perplexing to enter Islamic internet sites, for example muslimheritage.com. The impression is that Islam has invented everything on Earth from the beginning of history, and continues to discover and invent everything. Unfortunately, it seems as if according to this site Islam has caused the emergence and the existence of humanity, without Islam human beings would have been perished. Here is the list most of Muslim propagators in the West mention as the greatest and the firsts. Most of them were highly influenced by the Mu’tazila ideology.
Muḥammad Ibn Mūsa al-Khwārizmi(d. 850), was a Mathematica scholar hailed as the algebra inventor. However, he was not an Arab but Persian in origin and Zoroastrian in his religion. There is widespread misconceptions that Muslims “invented algebra”. Maybe this fallacy is due to the fact that the word “algebra” is Arabic, derived from Khwarizmi’s book, Addition and Subtraction after the Method of the Indians. Yet, the name of his book also refers to the fact that it was based on Indian or Greek sources.
Khwarizmi did not “invent” algebra. There are proven archaeological evidence that the roots of algebra date back to the ancient Babylonians, and were then developed in Egypt and Greece. The Chinese and especially the Indians also advanced algebra. The most important pre-modern scholar was Diophantus of Alexandria in the third century AD, called “the father of algebra.” He wrote series of books, Arithmetica, dealing with solving algebraic equations. Archimedes was the first mathematician to derive quantitative results from creation of mathematical models of physical problems. He was responsible for the first proof of the law of the lever and the basic principle of hydrostatics.
However, the most important mathematical text of Greek times, and probably of all time, the Elements of Euclid, written about 2300 years ago. In his book there are simply definitions, axioms, theorems, and proofs. Euclid’s work provided the field of Mathematics with a model of how ‘pure mathematics’ should be written, with precise definitions, carefully stated theorems, and logically coherent proofs. Euclid is thus first and foremost famous for creating a brilliant synthesis of the field.It is of note to mention that Diophantus and Euclid, like many other great Greeks taught and wrote at the most important institution of ancient time, the Library of Alexandria, founded by Ptolemy. This institution soon became a focal point of highest developments in Greek scholarship, both in the humanities and the sciences – and it was burned by the invading Arabs, headed by ‘Umar bin al-Khattab.
As for India, in 770, an Indian scholar brought two highly important mathematical works to Baghdad eg Brahmasiddhanta (Sindhind to Arabs) by the great 7th century Indian mathematician Brahmagupta, mathematician and astronomer, which contained early ideas of Algebra. The second manuscript contained a revolutionary system of denoting number and the concept of zero. Therefore, Khwarizmi took this work, combined it with Greek geometry (algebra developed by Hero of Alexandria). Indian numerals were used by Khwarizmi in algorithms (a Latinized version of his name) to solve certain mathematical problems. Hence Muslims certainly did not discover either zero or algebra and our so-called ‘Arabic Numerals’ are actually Indian (Hindu) Numerals.
Ibn Sīnā’ (Avicenna. d. 1037), and Abū Bakr ar-Rāzī (Rhazes. d. 925), were both great physiciansand significant thinkers. However, both were Persians and not Arabs, and both were at best highly unorthodox Muslims. ar-Razi didn’t believe a single word of the Islamic religion. Whatever contributions they made were more in spite of than because of Islam. Ibn Sina was always on the run of the fear of Islamic persecution, spent time in prison or had to write his works under the most severe circumstances. His greatest work, the Canon of Medicine, has become a standard work in Ehrope for the the next 600 years, but the Islamic rulers called hin an apostate (Murtad), and made his life intolerable as in his instruments he used to dissect pigs.
Moreover, while they should be considered to have been competent physicians, the greatest revolution in the world history of medicine was the germ theory of disease, championed by the Frenchman Louis Pasteur and the German Robert Koch in late nineteenth century Europe. They were aided in this by the microscope, which was an exclusively European invention.Islam continues with its misleading approach even concerning today’s “inventions.” In an article relating to Islamic medicine it is stated that in 2007 Malaysian scientist, Muszaphar Shukor, “became the first to perform biomedical research in outer space.” No less. Perhaps that meant he was the first Muslim to perform biomedical research in space. But this is exactly Islam.
Muslims comment on Abū Fath ‘Umar al-Khayyāmi, known as Omar Khayyam (d. 1131), who was a Persian philosopher, and creative mathematician, but he was not an Arab, and even not Muslim. Omar Khayyam was a wine lover who could at best be described as an extremely unorthodox Muslim. By and large he has been held either in ignominy, contempt, total disregard and oblivion by almost the entire Muslim world, and especially the Arab countries. He loved wine, women, and songs. He admired and praised the Zoroastrian religion. At the end, scientifically, he did not leave an impression on any science. Praising him today by Muslim propagators may hint of their desperation. How a Western-style materialist was created in an Islamic environment in early Middle-Ages and seems to openly defy the puritanical mind-set of 21st century apocalyptic Islam?
There is also Abū Mūsā Jābir Ibn Ḥayyān(d. 815), is hailed by Muslim propagators as the father of chemistry, by systematizing a “quantitative” analysis of substances. He was a Persian and not an Arab chemist and alchemist. He did good work in alchemy for his time and may have been the first person to create some acids, but he falls far short of Antoine Lavoisier and those who developed modern chemistry in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Europe. Muslim scientists have deepened their knowledge, however, their ideas are only to be found in fictional novels, rather than learning about their fundamental contributions from scientific databases.
Nasir al-Din al-Tūsī (d. 1274), was Persian and not an Arab physician and astronomer. According to Muslim Heritage, al-Tusi was a prolific writer in different fields of science. He wrote over 150 works in Arabic and Persian that dealt with mathematical sciences, philosophy, and the Islamic religious issues. By that he acquired the honorific title of Khwāja (distinguished scholar); Ustādh Bashariyah (teacher of mankind); and Mu’alimal-Thālith (third teacher, after Aristotle and al-Fārābī). He was the director of the Islamic astronomical observatory of Marāgha.However, astronomy was invented in India, based on the Ptolemaic Greek theoretical framework, and al-Tusi achievements made only some adjustments in the field.
Ḥunain Ibn Ishāq (d. 873), Johannitius in Latin, was Christian Nestorian (Assyrian) in his origin and even not Muslim. He was one of the most prominent translators of Greek books into Syro-Aramaic and Arabic. Soon he, his son and his nephew had made Galen’s medical treatises as well as Hippocratic works and texts by Aristotle, Plato and others available in Arabic. Hunayn’s own compositions include two on ophthalmology: the Ten Treatises on the Eye and the Book of the Questions on the Eye. His books had some influence but his importance came by transmitting the pure Galenic theory of vision.
Abū Naṣr Muḥammad al-Farābī (d. 950) was not an Arab, but from Khorasam, nowadays state of Kazakhstan. He was a renowned philosopher, known in Islamic circles with honorific title “the Second Master” (after Aristotle). He is credited with preserving the original Greek texts during the Middle-Ages, but not their translator. Mohamad Abdalla claimed that in the twelfth century, the West discovered, via a translated catalogue of sciences (map of knowledge) by al-Farābīthe existence of a considerable body of Antiquity’s scientific work. The West started examining these sciences, including astronomy, biology, botany, mathematics, and medicine. In addition, medieval European university became the institutional manifestation of al-Farābī’s map of knowledge. The translated work of Islamic knowledge formed the basis and the scientific foundation of the university in its living reality “the reality of its syllabus, the content of its teaching.”
Abu Yūsuf Yaʻqūb al-Kindī (d. 873), known as “the Philosopher of the Arabs”, was an Arab Muslim philosopher, and is hailed as the “father of Islamic philosophy, for his synthesis, adaptation and promotion of Greek and Hellenistic philosophy. Abbasid Caliphs appointed him to translate “the philosophy of the ancients,” as Greek philosophy was often referred to by Muslim scholars, into Arabic. This had a profound effect on his intellectual development, and he wrote many original treatises in many subjects. al-Kindī also played an important role in introducing the Indian system of numbers, traced back to 500 BC. The Indian numerals was spread to Sassanid Persia and was also used by the Assyrian and Nestroians. He was one of the first to attempt to reconcile Islam with Greek philosophy, especially with Aristotle, a project that soon failed due to religious resistance. De Lacy O’Leary reflects the significant topic that almost all Muslim thinkers and philosophers were classed as Aristotelians, tracing their intellectual descent from al-Kindī and al-Farābī.This is a romantic and tranquil picture.However reality gives different picture. al-Mutawwakil, the Abassid caliph, was convinced that Kindī had dangerous beliefs, and ordered the confiscation of his personal library, and punishment of fifty lashes before a large crowd. Other scholars, like al-Rāzī, Ibn Sinā, and Ibn Rushd were also subjected to some degree of persecution, and a part of them had to flee their countries for their own safety from the persecuting Islam.
Abū ‘AlīḤasan Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen. d. 1040) was an Arab, and of all the list of the mentioned scientists, the highest-ranking contribution by any Muslim scholar. He was invited and remained in Egypt for the rest of his life, patronized by the Fatimi Caliph, al-Hākim. Indeed, Alhazen made significant contributions to the principles of optics, due to direct access to Greek optical theory. He relied heavily on the Greek scientific tradition, but the synthesis he created was new. His most important Book of Optics(Kitāb al-Manāzir), a great original scientific work written in Arabic has been ranked as one of influential books in the history of physics. He was perhaps the only Arab who was really important to scientific contributions.
Alhazen was a prolific writer on all aspects of science and natural philosophy, including some ninety of which he acknowledged authorship. These includes commentaries on the optical works of Euclid and Ptolemy, and analyses of Aristotle’s Physics. He read Hippocrates and Galen on medicine, Plato and Aristotle on philosophy and wrote commentaries on many Greek philosophers. His treatise on optics contains a substantially correct model of vision.The best analysis of the issue is by David C. Lindberg. According to him, Alhazen’s essential achievement was to obliterate the old battle lines. He was neither Euclidean nor Galenist nor Aristotelian, or else; he was all of them. Tragically enough, his Book of Optics was not widely used in the Islamic world afterwards. The reason, his work was considered as blasphemy, and some of his disciples were put on fire as apostates.
Moreover, the French thinker Rémi Brague, claims that Muslims lacked the European instinct for self-criticism and appreciation of the other. Even though Muslims did translate scientific works from Greek and a few other languages into Arabic, they didn’t bother to preserve the originals. This made the act of going back to the sources to really understand them impossible. However, Brague was wrong. The Muslims did not preserve the originals purposely and intentionally. From the beginning they wanted the immitaton to become the original. This is one of the Arab-Islamic significant traits perceiving the world being totally Islamic.
Brague also quotes Ibn Khaldun, who has refered to this in his Muqaddimah: “Muslims desired to learn the sciences of the nations, to make them their own through translations. They pressed them into the mold of their own views. They peeled off these strange tongues into their own idiom, and surpassed the achievements of the non-Muslims in them. The manuscripts in the non-Arabic languages were forgotten, abandoned, and scattered. All the sciences came to exist in Arabic. The systematic works on them were written in Arabic. Thus, students of the sciences needed a knowledge of Arabic writing.”
Analyzing scientific topics and academic faculties
Universities. Islam did not establish secular scientific universities. Islam did established religios universities, like al-Azhar. Even though al-Azhar was a center of education in the Islamic world, it was a center of religious learning and Sharī’ah alone, not secular learning and science. al-Azhar was created in the tenth century as an institute of Islamic religion studies. Contemporary Muslim propagators hail it as one of the oldest universities, but this is really a joke. It was never a university but an Islamic religious study institute.
Bassam Tibi relates to this: “Some Islamic historians wrongly translate the term Madrasa as university. This is plainly incorrect: If we understand a university as universitas litterarum, or consider, without the bias of Eurocentrism, the cast of the universitas magistrorum, we are bound to recognise that the university as a seat for free and unrestrained enquiry based on reason, is a European innovation in the history of mankind.Universities were the Assyrians and Buddhist invention. Among the best is the Great Monastery of Nalanda in India. It was not established by Muslims; in fact, it was destroyed by Muslims, as were so many cultural treasures in India, Central Asia and the Middle East. Though some texts were reintroduced to Europe via Arabic translations, but neither the inventions nor the translators were Arabs or Muslims. The Greek texts that were translated into Arabic were copied by Greek-speaking Byzantine Christians and others, and most tragically the originals disappeared or burnt.
Without the separation of church and state, the West would not have produced a deeply rooted natural philosophy that was disseminated through Europe by virtue of an extensive network of universities, which laid the foundation for the great scientific advances made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A striking number of the leading scholars in early modern Europe, from Copernicus to Galileo and Newton, had studied at these institutions. Although the Scientific Revolution began in the seventeenth century with the systematic use of the experimental method and a more critical view of the knowledge of the ancients, exemplified by individuals such as Galileo, the initial institutional basis for these developments was laid with the natural philosophers of the medieval universities.
It is an historical fact that scientific revolution happened in Europe. The foundations for the study of modern science were laid in the European universities. The natural sciences became “the foundation and core of a medieval university education.” The earliest European universities, such as the University of Bologna in Italy and Oxford in England, were created in the eleventh century, but many more were added during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The medieval European university represented a real innovation when the Greco-Roman heritage was slowly recovered. After the Crusades, translations directly from Greek via Byzantine manuscripts acquired from Constantinople. Unfortunately they were stopped after the Ottoman occupation of Constantinople. Again, Islam has proven to disruptive and distructive when it comes to sciences.
Toby E. Huff quotes: Something like 87% of the European scientists born between 1450 and 1650 [who were] thought worthy of inclusion in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography were university educated.’ More importantly, ‘A large proportion of this group was not only university educated but held career posts at a university.’ For the period 1450-1650 this was 45 percent, and for 1450-1550, it was 51 percent. In short, sociological and historical accounts of the role of the university as an institutional locus for science and as an incubator of scientific thought and argument have been vastly understated. Indeed, Islam has nothing to do with this processes. Universities and Islam are contradictory.
The legal system that developed in 13th century Europe, which saw the absorption of Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Christian theology, was instrumental in forming a philosophically and theologically open culture that respected scientific development. European universities were legally autonomous and they could develop their own rules, scholarly norms, and curricula, depending on curiosity, skepticism, and inquisitiveness. It was only this attitude of inquiry that helped lay the foundation for modern science.
The network of universities facilitated the spread of information, knowledge and debate and served as an incubator for many later scientific advances in Europe. These developments had never occurred in the Arab lands. Moreover, all of these innovations were made centuries before European colonialism had begun. In fact, it was the time when Europe itself was a victim of Islamic colonialism and violent aggressive Jihad being waged by the Ottomans in the remaining Byzantine lands, and the Mediterranean coasts had suffered centuries of Islamic raids.
Mathematics, geometry trigonometry. Mohamad Abdalla claims that Muslims developed Greek geometry and then used it in designing wheels of all kinds, including waterwheels and other systems for drawing water, in improving farming equipment, and, inevitably, in devising engines and devices of war. In the ninth century, Thābit ibn Qurra wrote on cubatures and quadratures; advanced the study of parabolas; and translations of Appollonius’ Conics, Archimedes’ treatises, and Nicomachus’ Introduction to Arithmetic. Moreover, he continues legends, trigonometry was invented by the Arabs. They were the first to formulate explicit trigonometric functions. Khawarizmi, the Muslim mathematician and the first to establish algebra and algorithm and to compose many astronomical tables. Habbash al-Hāsib was the first to use tangents cotangent functions. Abu al-Wafā’ al-Buzanji, the first person to demonstrate the sine theorem for general spherical triangle, which is attributed to Copernicus. Bayruni was the first to write on spherical trigonometry, calculated the approximate value of a diagonal of one degree, and was the first to demonstrate that for a plane triangle.
The problem with this list is that all of them were not the first and all of them were not Arabs. Khawarizmi was a Persian mathematician and astronomer; Thabit ibn Qurrah was a Sabian mathematician and physician from Harran, Turkey; Habbash al-Hāsib Persian astronomer and mathematician; Abu al-Wafā’ al-Buzanji was a Persian mathematician; and al-Bayruni was born in todays’ Uzbekistan. There is no accurate information whether they were Muslims at all or forcibly converted to Islam. What is clear that their knowledge, whatever it worth, was not Islamic originated.
Persian scientific efforts contributed significantly to academic development of clinical pharmacology and medicine. One example is the practical production in food industry. Persian scientists improved the cooking process in such a way that long before others they could enjoy the taste of pure sugar. The list of Persian scientists that have enriched clinical chemistry, pharmacology, and thus medical therapy and medicine, is almost endless. The Persian poet, Ferdowsi composed in the 11th century his famous work Shahnameh, the ‘Book of Kings.” With this book the poet elevates the Persian language, 300 years after the destruction of Sassanid empire. While most of the conquered countries would lose their culture and language forever the Persian poet Ferdowsi prevented this tragedy for Persia. The Sumarians, one of the first Aryan peoples, integrated astronomy and medical science. The medical profession of doctor goes aback as far as 4000 years, with traces of medical instruments and recipes. Nothing Islamic.
Algebra already existed in ancient Mesopotamia. Algebraic symbolism was employed by Diophantus in Greco-Roman times. Muslims never made use of such symbols. Moreover, wheels of all kinds and farming equipment where all well-known to the Pharaonics and Assyrians long time before Islam; and geometry and trigonometry were invented in India, and some of them by Assyrians. And one more thing: please do not feel uncomfortable reading Muslim were the first of everything. History belongs to them, and everything was created for them and according to their will. They have the best example in Muhammad. He was the greatest human who ever lived and the best model for all humanity: al-Insān al-Kāmil, “the ideal perfect man” whose life is to be imitated by all Muslims and must be obeyed (3:32; 4:79; 8:20; 24:54). Muhammad is the uppermost “beautiful model of conduct” (33:21), a man of “sublime moral character” (68:4).
Medicine. Mohamed Abdalla assisted by Islamic Heritage site claims that “Muslims also excelled in and made original contributions to medicine… Muslims produced new medical knowledge, by systematizing the inconsistent Greco-Roman medical knowledge by writing encyclopedias and summaries. The influence of Islamic medicine in the West was critical, due to the mass of information it conveyed and because it helped establish medicine as a science. In this background Islamic medicine developed and advanced, and at its zenith produced such towering physicians like Ibn Sinā and al-Rāzi, considered to be among the greatest physicians ever known.”
“ar-Rāzi is the keenest original thinker and greatest clinician not only of Islam but of all the Middle Ages. He was the Islamic world’s greatest original clinical and observational physician… He applied chemistry and physics to medicine… wrote a medical encyclopedia and a treatise on smallpox and measles that was the earliest of its kind and considered a masterpiece of Arabic medical literature. He was a pioneer in pediatrics, obstetrics, and ophthalmology… the inventor of the Seton in surgery, and the first to relate hay fever to a rose’s scent, and mastered by psychological shock and of using psychosomatic medicine and psychology. Another great figure Ibn Sinā, was the most renowned physician, philosopher, astronomer and mathematician… representing the climax of medieval philosophy… His book, Canon of Medicine, influenced Europe’s medical schools for the next 600 years and was probably the most used of all medieval medical references.”
However, it is interesting that what is called Islamic medicine was in fact Assyrian and Jewish, and it was built on known traditions, mainly theoretical and practical knowledge developed in Greece and Rome, in Babylon, Persia and India. Here is what ar-Rāzi said about Islam: Muslims get angry and spill the blood of whoever confronts them with questions about their religion. They forbid rational speculation, and strive to kill their adversaries. This is why truth became thoroughly silenced and even concealed. Muslims claim that the Qur’an is miraculous and the infinite words of Allah, and ‘whoever denies it, let him produce a similar one.’ Indeed, we can produce thousands similar, which are more appropriately phrased and state the issues more succinctly. Muslims are talking about a work which recounts ancient myths, is full of contradictions and does not contain any useful information or explanation. Now, can one who utter such words be a Muslim?
As said before, both ar-Rāzi and Ibn Sinā’ were great physiciansand thinkers. However, both were Persians and not Arabs, both were highly unorthodox if they were Muslims at all, and both made their contributions in spite of Islam and not because of Islam. The fact is that as in almost every science, the observatory as a scientific and cultural institution failed to take root in the Arabic-Islamic world. European anatomists were practicing dissections on the pigs and also human body. Consequently, they had a considerable stock of empirical knowledge about human anatomy that was not available in the Arab-Muslim world. Engaged in a variety of practices that would have been forbidden in Islam, Middle Eastern medical education of the time was still based mainly on the memorization of authoritative texts. Moreover, Clear glass was used by Europeans to create eyeglasses for the correction of eyesight, and later for the creation of microscopes and telescopes and thus the birth of modern medicine and astronomy. The final breakthrough was made by the great physician, Vesalius, in his book On the Fabric of the Human Body from 1543.
Astronomy. In his website, George Saliba writes: “I study the development of scientific ideas from late antiquity to modern times, with a special focus on the various planetary theories that were developed within the Islamic civilization and the impact of such theories on European astronomy.” Moreover, Islamic heritage site explains that the medieval Islamic astronomers were not mere translators but also have played a key role in the Copernican revolution, which ultimately influenced Renaissance. The contribution of Islamic science was fundamental to the birth and subsequent development of astronomy in the West, for before this contribution the West had no advanced astronomy. The knowledge developed by Muslim astronomers produced changes in the West as regards the development of trigonometry, instruments, and the local star catalogues, and affected the growth and development of astronomical theory.
It continues: Islamic astronomers surpassed the Greek mathematical methods, and developed trigonometry, which eventually provided the essential tools necessary for the astronomy that developed during the Renaissance. Scholars as Thabit ibn Qurra and Hunayn ibn Ishaq translated Ptolemy’s major work. By the end of the ninth century, the Arabs had thoroughly studied and were acquainted with the work of Antiquity. Saliba himself concludes that at some level the Renaissance “which was at least partly inspired by the Copernican revolution was not a purely European creation.”
Though the best Muslim scholars could be capable of observational astronomers, above all Ulugh Beg (Mīrzā Muhammad Tāraghay), who was a Timurid from Samakand, and Persian in origin, and not an Arab. Few of them made some adjustments to Ptolemaic astronomical theory, but none of them ever made a huge conceptual breakthrough comparable to that provided by Copernicus in 1543 when he put the Sun, not the Earth, at the center of our Solar System. Ptolemaic astronomy was in reality outdated in Europe even before Galileo and others introduced telescopic astronomy in 1609.
The achievements of the Maragha Observatory in Persia, founded in 1259 and known for its precise observations of the stars and the planets, were Persian mind and invention, not Islamic. The fact is that by 1304-05 the observatory was closed because it contradicted Islamic teachings. Islam was and still is against sciences and innovations considered as Bid’ah. The breakthrough in astronomy was the shift to a heliocentric or sun-centered model of the solar system, was done by Nicolaus Copernicus in the sixteenth century. It was based on ancient Greece and in India thinking.
Another aspect was astrology, however, it was directly counter to the teachings of Islam: only Allah knows the past and the future, and only Allah regulates the entire world. Therefore, those astrologists who claim such knowledge are blasphemers. This was exactly the reason that several observatories in Persia and India were destroyed because of their alleged association with astrology. Astrology was blasphemy and an insult to Allah and Astronomy was thus distrusted and mainly denied by Muslims.
Archaeology is one of the proofs that the Islamic world was against at adopting scientific cultural inventions. Historically and religiously Muslims tend to be indifferent and uncurious toward non-Muslim cultures and sciences, past or present, but most of the time actively hostile to them. Muslims, despite the fact that they controlled the cradles of the most ancient civilizations on the planet, were indifferent or actively hostile to their remains. The Egyptian Grand Mufti, Ali Gom’ā, is quoted a saying by Muhammad that sculptors will be among those receiving the harshest punishment on Judgment Day. According to the influential Egyptian scholar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Islam prohibits statues and three-dimensional figures of the living creatures… Therefore, the statues of ancient Egyptians are prohibited.”
When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, he sent scientist to exlore the wonders of the Pyramids and the Sphinx. This took the Muslims completely by astonishment, as they could not understand why anybody would be interested in worthless infidel stones. The local Egyptians were confused and did not understand the issue: what was important with this monuments they only robed its treasures. This was the case of other ancient monuments in Iraq, Syria, and North-Africa.
Archaeology was invented by Europeans in the post-Enlightenment period. Muslim exegetes perceived it as infidelity. The French expedition to Egypt in 1798-1801 brought many scholars to catalogue the ancient monuments, thus founding modern Egyptology. The trilingual Rosetta Stone discovered in 1799 was employed to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs in 1822, by using the Coptic language. Arab and Turkish Muslims controlled Egypt for more than a thousand years, yet they never bother to decipher the hieroglyphs. The Copts, the native Egyptian Christians (the name “Egypt” comes from Coptic=Cuptan=Egypt) were the direct link to ancient Egypt that fortunately the Arab Muslims invaders hadn’t managed to completely eradicate.
Fine arts in Islam is another sad story of nothing. For 1400 years, Muslims have been prevented by their own faith from enjoying the freedom of artistic expression that non-Muslims take for granted. A highly reliable authentic Hadīth from Sahīh Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim quotes Muhammad says that “angels have declared that they will not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture.” The Reliance of the Traveler quotes a number of Ahādīth, that “There will be no peoples of my community who will hold fornication, silk, wine, and musical instruments to be lawful.” Another quote says: “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to songstress.” The scholarly conclusion is that “All of this is explicit and compelling textual evidence that musical instruments of all types are unlawful.” Another legal ruling says that “It is unlawful to use musical instruments – such as those which drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute – or to listen to them. It is permissible to play the tambourine at weddings, circumcisions, and other times, even if it has bells on its sides. Beating the kuba, a long drum with a narrow middle, is unlawful.”
There appears to be a close correlation between the sciences and the arts. Music was closely connected to astronomy in Pythagorean thought, and the great astronomer Claudius Ptolemy wrote on music. Mathematical laws and proportions were considered the underpinnings of musical intervals. Plato and Aristotle both claimed that education should stress gymnastics to discipline the body and music to discipline the mind. The Christian church was the dominant institution in post-Roman Europe that deeply affected the future development of European music. The Gregorian chant in the monasteries and cathedrals established the musical tradition in the works of Mozart and Beethoven. From the Jews came the practices of singing psalms and chanting Scripture. Greek theory evolved from Pythagoras. The Church of post-Roman Europe and drew music from Greek philosophy, musical theory, and Jewish tradition (Donald J. Grout, A History of Western Music). Psychological and behavioral tests clearly prove that music, any music, has been an important ingredient in thinking, developing and the advancement of man.
One must also relate to the Islamic intolerance of the other’s arts. It is clear, the greatest destruction of art in the history of the world is that wrought by Muslims over 1400 years of its existence (architecture, artifacts of ancient civilizations). Muslims devoted the greatest destruction of art in world history, vandalizing many different works of art and architecture, frescoes, mosaics, paintings, statues, synagogues, churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples, wherever Islam was present. Some of that arts has been religious in nature: thousands of Buddhist and Hindu temples complexes in India razed by Muslims; thousands of churches vandalized, razed, or turned into mosques in North Africa and the Middle East.
The destruction of a world heritage ancient sites also prove Islamic intolerance. The Buddhas of Bamiyan, from the 4th-5th century, monumental statues of standing Buddha carved into a cliff in Afghanistan, were demolished by the Taliban in March 2001. In 2012, Muslims of Ansar Dine group, which claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda, unleashed a campaign of destruction against the cultural and religious monuments of Timbuktu, bashing in the doors of a 15th century mosque, and tearing down centuries-old tombs of Muslim holy men.Palmyra, a World Heritage Site, one of Syria’s biggest tourist destinations, is on ruins. The 1,900-year-old Temple of Baal (Bell), described as the premier archeological site in Syria is demolished. Mar Elian Monastery, an important Christian pilgrimage site is demolished. Apamea, a rich Roman-era trading city, has been badly looted. Dura Europos, a Greek place on the Euphrates, housed the world’s oldest known Christian church, a beautifully decorated synagogue, and many other temples and Roman-era buildings, were widespread destructed. Mari, from the Bronze Age, a center of palaces, temples, and extensive archives was looted systematically.
In Iraq, Hatra, UNESCO World Heritage site from the Roman era with marvelous Greek architecture, was demolished. Mosul Museum and universities are in a process of destruction. Mosul University’s library was burned. The Mosul Museum, Iraq’s second largest, after the Museum in Baghdad, was demolished. Nimrud, the first Assyrian capital, founded 3,200 years ago is ruined and looted. Ninveh, an ancient Assyrian capital between 900 and 600 B.C. is under Jihadi control. Mosul’s Mosque of the Prophet Yunus was dedicated to the biblical figure Jonah was demolished with explosives. Imam Dar Mausoleum, near the city of Samarra, was a medieval Islamic architecture and decoration was blown up.
Back to the past. The case of the Library of Alexandria, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which was burnt in 644. The Library was the ancient world’s greatest and most significant archive of knowledge. It has been estimated that it held over 700,000 scrolls and documents from Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India and other places. The great thinkers of the age, scientists, mathematicians, poets from all civilizations came to study and exchange ideas. al-Qiftī (1172-1248) relates to the issue in his The History of Learned Men (Ta’rīkh al-Hukamā’). Umar ibn-al-Khattāb replied to ‘Amr ibn al-‘Asas follows: ‘As for the books you have mentioned I can say that those which agree with the Book of Allah [The Qur’an] are to be disposed of because Qur’an is sufficient. And if they have things which contradict the Qur’an, they must be deposed of.’ Another version claims that Umar wrote: “they will either contradict the Qur’an, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous.” So, allegedly, all the texts of the Library were set on fire.
In his Prolegomena (al-Muqadimah), Ibn Khaldun supports the story of the burning of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in light of the Arabs’ behavior towards books in that era. He recalls that the Sassanid Persia’s library books were thrown in water and set on fire after the Battle of Nahavand, in 642. This battle is known as the “Victory of Victories” following the order of the Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattāb who told Ibn Abi Waqqās: ‘If these books included guidance, know that Allah has given us a better guidance; and if they contained deviation then may Allah protect us.’
Arabs/Muslims are engaged in an explicit campaign of destruction and expropriation of cultures and communities, identities and ideas. Wherever Arab/Muslim civilization encounters a non-Arab/Muslim one, it attempts, and unfortunately most of the times even succeeded to destroy it. If the “foreign” culture cannot be destroyed, then it is expropriated, and revisionist historians claim that it is and was Muslim, as is the case of most of the Muslim scientific “accomplishments.” This is a pattern that has been recurring since the advent of Islam, 1400 years ago, and is amply substantiated by the historical record, and clearly corroborated by contemporary situation.
The tragedy of the Free World that this Islamic onslaught is on the winning route. So many publications on the internet sites, books, pamphlets and documents, and so much money pour out to change the human mind. For example, MuslimHeritage.com perpetuate historical fabrications and virtually rob the heritage of other civilizations such as ancient China, Greece, Rome, India, and pre-Islamic Middle East – Persia, Babylon, Assyria, Phoenicia, Jews, and Pharaonic Egypt. Or the official site of Paul Vallely,paulvallely.com where the articles written by him are proven to be fundamentally misleading and full of sheer lies and fabrications. They omit, distort, twist, and make blunders concerning the most basic of historical well-known facts. They leave the reader wondering what could have motivated him into writing such deceptive pieces?It is money alone? Is it ignorance? Or it is evil?
Science is universal. Its problems and modalities are international. Islamic Science is the total opposite of any science. Science does not believe in creation theory and religion does not believe in evolution theory. They are both contradictory. The Islamic gates of innovation (Ijtihād) were closed. The Islamic religion is the main, almost the only cause to the Islamic empty-science.Enough is enough. More and more Muslims and their idiot-fools supporters in the West publish ‘researches’ and ‘investigations’ that claim everything was Islamic, and everything belongs to Islam, and hence Islam deserves to be the only legitimate religion and political system.
If contemporary generation still has the ability to make the difference and is somehow immune of this fabricated propagation, the next generation will be totally exposed to one way falsified propaganda that twists distorts and perverts the basics of truth. Science, pure science, will be vanished and instead a “science” depend on religion will emerge. From here the road of the Free World to the Islamic 7th century desert is close, and Judeo-Christian civilization is lost.
*part of a larger book titled, Why Islam is a Danger to the World: A Scholarly Rebuttal of Muslim Propaganda, be published by Mellen Press.
The sunset of the West and Islam: From US bombs to the return of the Taliban
With regard to the issue of Islamic proselytism in Europe, where some countries (Belgium, Great Britain, France, etc.) have large minorities of Muslim believers – who, according to many, should be Americanized with sheriff’s hats, miniskirts and reducing the faith to smartphone apps – some clarifications must be made regarding the ignorance that leads newspapers, television and social networks to absolutely not understand what Islam is, i.e. a religion that does not look at races, but aims at the universalism of the God of Abraham.
The Muslim law is a legal science of ancient tradition based on the Holy Koran. Islam is a religious, political and legal system of a reality that is a whole: dogmatic, moral, ritual, pertaining to private and public law (according to our Roman law categories).
A whole – as said above – stemming from the same sacred sources and bearing the overall name of šarī’a (following the straight path revealed by God), which, being based on the Old and New Testament (prophets of Islam: Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mary, Muhammad), can be “translated” correctly into religious law of divine origin.
This is of absolute importance and it must be kept in mind – as a peculiarity of Islam – that this religion regulates – with very detailed positive precepts – every manifestation of the life of believers, even in those areas that might appear to be the farthest from the field of religion, according to the parameters of secularism.
The science of law (‘ilm al-fiqh) according to the Muslim jurists (fuqahā’, sing. faqīh) has a first bipartition in the sources of law (usul al-fiqh, sing. asl al-fiqh): the Koran, the Sunnah (ahadīt, sing. hadīt: sayings of the Prophet), the ijmā’ or consensus of the community (ummah) and the qiyās or deductive analogy.
The šarī’a, in turn, is divided into ‘ibādat and mu’āmalat. The former includes the five pillars of faith: acceptance of God, daily prayer, legal almsgiving, fasting and abstinence until sunset in the month of Ramadān (9th), pilgrimage to Mecca and its surroundings in the month of Dû l-Hijja (12th). The second covers all other aspects of the social, economic and political life of the community, and can be adapted to the varying needs of times and places, provided the results do not deviate from the word and spirit of the šarī’a itself.
Prof. Giorgio Vercellin (1950-2007) recalled that Westerners have always pretended not to see this fact, for contingent interests, first of colonial expansion – in trying to impose their own laws and exploit territories – and then of attempted internal assimilation (cancellation of national and fideistic individuality), and
«in essence, therefore, the Muslim world, and particularly the Islamic Near East (and in the manuals there is no trace of the presence of numerous and active Christian and Jewish communities in those territories over the centuries) is described as having an autonomous history worthy of attention only in the remote past. It is not by chance that the pages on Muhammad and his immediate successors follow the much more copious pages describing the Persians – i.e. the Achaemenids – the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, etc. In other words, Islam and the Muslim world are presented on the same “archaeological” level (and therefore devoid of evolution until today) as the ancient Greeks and Romans. […] The real crux is that the Society of Italian Historians has considered the “Muslim world”, so to speak, automatically as part of the “ancient world“».
Instead, it is contemporary and present. Muslims are men and women of faith, and for them religion is also pure lawfulness. Islam is not just a confession, but a culture, a multicontinental and cross-sectoral civilisation, a way of life in which the relationship with the divinity is spiritual and temporal at the same time.
The history of Western thought, from the age of Enlightenment to the present day, is marked by the conflict between faith and science: there is a constant loss of ground of the areas of influence of religion in favour of the side hegemonised by technology.
By this we mean secularisation, rationalisation, relativism, etc. The most striking manifestation of all this is the recognition of the right to ‘believe’ but also to ‘not believe’. Tout court, it is the right to atheism, which Muslim jurisprudence – which, as seen above, is identified with faith – does not admit and which the West tries to impose with the violence of American weapons and with the soppy and cloying European do-goodism and political correctness. Whatever some well-meaning sociologists may say, Islam does not distinguish between religion and politics, between confession and law.
The trend that is being strengthened in the Islamic world consists in a reaffirmation of both regulations and general Shariah principles, which have been established either through legislation or as a practice in Muslim and Islamic countries, i.e. the places from where migrants come.
In the Islamic tradition, the principle that Islam as such must be both religion and State (dīn wa-dawla wa duniyā), and that the term secularism (‘ilmaniyya) is synonymous with atheism, materialism, permissiveness, moral decadence, etc., is fundamental, especially in the countries allied with the West (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, etc.), and in those which are not allied with it. In each of them the institutional presence of other faiths is rarely allowed – and this from a purely legal viewpoint.
The illusion with which weak-minded or mean-minded people (to say the least) and others pursue the so-called multiculturalism has no basis in the experience and beliefs of the other party. Therefore, imagining a Muslim who adheres to the canons and principles of the liberal system – which is atheist insofar as it turns faith from a value into a subjective choice or into an “evangelical” sociological solution and welfarism for the desperate or destitute people – is a deadly naivety: a historical suicide on the part of a society that no longer has anything to offer and on the part of a production system that is leading the planet to destruction.
Any person, whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish, who puts forward his or her own viewpoint – either in writing or in a speech, which subsumes his or her thinking – clearly believes it to be right and true, and does not accept – on principle – a contrary or different opinion.
It is practically the parallel of a Westerner who, for various reasons, moves to a Muslim country and ex abrupto denies his way of thinking and living. Sometimes you do not understand whether this candid hope is the result of the Westerner’s ignorance or, worse, the absolute malice of a few, since cheap and profitable workforce and caregivers are much more needed than ethics, respect and safety and security of our citizens.
This shows that it is not the West that tolerates the Muslim presence in Europe, but the opposite. In a society such as ours – in full social and environmental deterioration (see the Laudato si’ by Pope Francis), which has denied the sacred and has mixed genders; which is based on consumerism, servitude to money, exasperation of profit, the race for the useless, the triumph of technologicism, the race for pleasure, hedonism, the reduction of the ruling class and of politicians to zero; which has relegated women to the role of sexual icons and has reduced the sense of heroism to fiction; a society in which liberal-free market thinking generates embarrassing choices – the believers, including Catholics, Christians in toto, Jews and Muslims here, are instead tolerating the system that hosts them.
This is proved by the fact that the criminal horrors and atrocities we witnessed on November 13, 2015 were carried out by an infinitesimal percentage of Muslims present on our continent – on top of it, European citizens and not emigrants, i.e. legal children of those States where they committed crimes. It is not for me to explain why they have done so. In a millennium and a half, what has been happening for the last sixteen years, since the “humanitarian” bombs began to devastate the Afghanistan of the Taliban in the past and of the Taliban today, has never happened.
Muslim-Evangelical alliance strives to create religious and political middle ground
A recent unprecedented alliance between Muslims and Evangelicals takes on added significance in a world in which human rights are on the defensive, religious groups tend to forge political as well as ideational partnerships, and the role of the clergy in multiple Muslim-majority countries has come under scrutiny.
The alliance potentially could create a platform for voices in the Muslim world, particularly the Middle East, in which significant segments of the youth who constitute a majority of the population, increasingly reject state-controlled, ritualistic forms of religion and distrust clerics subservient to the government.
It could also offer a middle ground on which elements of the secular centre-right and centre-left could meet based on shared faith-based values in deeply polarised parts of the world, particularly in the West.
International affairs and inter-faith scholar Michael Driessen suggested in an email to this writer that the recently forged alliance between Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), one, if not the world’s largest Muslim civil society organization, and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), fits a pattern of partnerships between diverse religious groups that goes beyond seeking to protect minorities to promotion of social cohesion and fraternity.
Speaking at a virtual meeting of the Interfaith Forum of the Group of 20 or G20 that brings together the world’s largest economies, Tunisian Islam scholar Nejia Al-Ourimi seemed to anticipate the alliance when she argued that reform of Islam would have to be bottom-up and originate in civil society rather than top-down and directed and controlled by autocratic rulers who see it as a way of branding themselves and their nations as well as and one way of ensuring survival.
Ms. Al-Ourimi reasoned further that genuine inclusivity was precluded in much of the Middle East because most Arab constitutions assume that the state has a religion. She went on to say that “what we need to do is reframe the traditional approaches of linking religion to legislation. We must find leaders who are willing to withdraw from the traditional way of participating in the public sphere—through the legal and legislative dimensions—and return from a ‘values’ perspective to guide ethical efforts.”
In a contribution to a recently published report on Human Fraternity and Inclusive Citizenship issued by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) and the Beirut-based Foundation for Diversity, Solidarity and Human Dignity (Adyan), Ms. Al-Oumiri points to a series of lofty, lovey-dovey inter-faith statements issued in the past decade by different combinations of Arab Muslim and non-Muslim clerics, religious and secular intellectuals, and politicians.
The statements constituted attempts by Muslim religious authorities and autocratic governments to keep ahead of the curb of youth aspirations and project themselves as voices of moderation by emphasizing religious freedom, religious pluralism, and inclusive citizenship irrespective of religious belief.
The statements include the 2012 Statement on Basic Freedoms issued by Al Azhar, Islam’s Cairo-based oldest institution of Islamic learning that has long been swayed by Saudi and United Arab Emirates financial support, the 2016 Marrakech Declaration that called for the development of a jurisprudence of that enshrines the concept of inclusive citizenship, and the Document on Human Fraternity signed in the UAE in 2019 by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.
Referring to the 2012 Al Azhar statement, Ms. Al-Oumiri highlighted the fact that the statement was issued in the wake of popular revolts that in 2011 toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Saudi and UAE manoeuvres helped roll back the revolts’ achievements in all of the countries except for Tunisia.
The manoeuvres did not roll back what Ms. Al-Oumiri described as a “new awareness” among “all the components that participated in the protest movement, secularists, liberals, Christians, Muslims and others, (that) became aware of the fact that the bilateral polarization and exclusionary relations prevailing at that time were the main reason for the dispersion of forces capable of inducing positive change and extricating Arab society from its chronic crisis.” It is an awareness that expresses itself today among others in changing youth attitudes towards religiosity.
Ms. Al-Oumiri’s ‘new awareness’ is one factor that hampers autocratic efforts to shape a moderate form of Islam that serves the needs of social change and economic diversification without conceding democratic freedoms, projects autocrats as religious moderates as part of their nation branding and furthers their quest for religious soft power.
The ‘new awareness’ is borne out by research and opinion polls that consistently show that the gap between the religious aspirations of youth and state-imposed interpretations of Islam is widening. The polls and research suggest that youth are increasingly sceptical towards religious and worldly authority. They aspire to more individual, more spiritual experiences of religion.
As a result, Nahdlatul Ulama’s opportunity to turn its alliance with the WEA into a vehicle of change in both the Muslim world and the West is enhanced by the fact that religious reform in rival contenders for religious soft power like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Egypt is top-down by decree or changes in common or civil rather than, more sustainably, bottom-up and anchored in religious law and jurisprudence.
The point was highlighted when Nahdlatul Ulama’s religious leaders took the first step towards reform of religious law and/or jurisprudence in 2019 by replacing the notion of the kafir or infidel with the concept of muwathinun or citizens to emphasize that Muslims and non-Muslims were equal before the law.
Leaders of the group say that they intend to tackle other outdated, intolerant, or supremacist concepts such as the dhimmi or People of the Book, and slavey that remain reference points even if large numbers of Muslims do not heed them in their daily life, as well as eventually blasphemy and apostasy.
Nahdlatul Ulama’s opportunity is further both bolstered and complicated by the fact that autocratic Muslim rulers wittingly or unwittingly reinforce Islamophobic tendencies in multiple ways by their often brutal abuse of human rights at home and their support of policies in various parts of the globe that encourage negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims.
These policies include the blurring in countries like France and Austria of the lines between political Islam and piety as well as autocratic Muslim acquiescence, if not endorsement of the crackdown on Turkic Muslims and Islam in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang.
Nahdlatul Ulama, despite its tangible adherence to principles of democracy, human rights, and tolerance, has yet to clearly distinguish itself from autocratic religious soft power rivals when it comes to its shared rejection of political Islam and identity politics. In other words, how it handles Islamophobia is likely to be a litmus test for Nahdlatul Ulama as well as its alliance with the Evangelicals.
Making that distinction clear is likely to also enhance the Nahdlatul Ulama-WEA alliance’s ability to bring together elements of the centre-right and centre-left could meet based on shared faith-based advocacy of human rights, democratic freedoms, and tolerance at a time that democracy is on the defence.
The linkage between the Nahdlatul Ulama-WEA alliance’s opportunity to serve as a bridge in both the religious and political domain is evident not only when it comes to countering religious supremacism but also far-right extremism. It is that linkage that adds a geopolitical dimension to the alliance’s potential.
Germany, where ultra-nationalist supremacists, despite recent electoral setbacks for the Alternative for Germany (AfD), have infiltrated the security and armed forces, spotlights the importance of creating a religious and political centre that is driven as much by shared values as it is by interests.
Security services recorded more than 1,400 cases of suspected far-right extremism among soldiers, police officers and intelligence agents in recent years. The German defence ministry last year disbanded a whole company of special forces after explosives, a machine gun, and memorabilia of the Nazi’s SS were found on the property of a sergeant major.
The geopolitical significance of developments in Germany is enhanced by the fact that some German ultra-nationalists and members of the far-right are believed to have links to Russia and /or far-right Russian nationalists.
In the latest German incident, prosecutors are investigating an official of Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the country’s domestic intelligence agency, suspected of helping plan the assassination of a Chechen dissident as part of a campaign across Europe that targets critics of Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Russian republic of Chechnya. Mr. Kadyrov is widely viewed as an associate of President Vladimir Putin and maintains close ties to Middle Eastern autocrats.
Defining moderate Islam: Muslims and Evangelicals forge an alliance
A major Muslim and Evangelical organization joined forces this week to significantly advance hitherto state-backed ceremonial inter-faith dialogues that seldom go beyond platitudes and lofty statements.
This week’s launch at a Washington DC mosque of an inter-faith alliance and a book published by the Institute for Humanitarian Islam and the Germany-based World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) as well as the Center for Shared Civilizational Values constitutes an Evangelical endorsement of Humanitarian Islam.
It also amounts to a rare Muslim celebration of an Evangelical authority, WEA secretary general Archbishop Thomas Schirrmacher, who played a key role in building a relationship between the Evangelical group and Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, one, if not the world’s largest Muslim movement.
“Dr. Schirrmacher’s decision to engage with the Humanitarian Islam movement may prove to be singularly consequential, and perhaps even historic, in its ramifications for the relationship between Christians and Muslims,” the editors of the book, Thomas K. Johnson and C. Holland Taylor said in their introduction.
Entitled ‘God Needs No Defense: Reimagining Muslim – Christian Relations in the 21st Century,’ the book is an anthology of essays written by preeminent Muslim and Christian scholars.
Based in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, the Institute for Humanitarian Islam was established by Nahdlatul Ulama to advance globally its humanitarian interpretation of the faith.
Nahdlatul Ulama sees the concept as an alternative to state-backed less developed and less tolerant and pluralistic notions of a moderate Islam as propagated by countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well expressions of political Islam represented by Turkey, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Nahdlatul Ulama was founded almost a century ago in opposition to Wahhabism, the austere interpretation of Islam propagated for decades by Saudi Arabia until the rise in 2015 of King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Indonesian group positions Humanitarian Islam as advocating genuine religious reform rather than self-serving social and rhetorical change advocated by rulers eager to implement long-overdue economic and social reform and project themselves as genuine religious moderates in a global battle for Muslim religious soft power and the soul of Islam.
The differences between Nahdlatul Ulama’s Humanitarian Islam and the interpretations of the faith put forward by its conservative monarchical and republican Islamist soft power rivals are stark and raise fundamental questions about what constitutes genuine reform and how it can sustainably be achieved.
The differences pitch an independent civil society group, albeit one with close ties to the state, against states themselves.
Nahdlatul Ulama’s independence has allowed it to start a process of real change rooted in religious law and jurisprudence rather than a ruler’s decree or opinion issued by subservient clergymen.
The group challenges outdated, intolerant, or supremacist concepts such as the kafir or infidel, the dhimmi or People of the Book, and slavey that remain reference points even if large numbers of Muslims do not heed them in their daily life, as well as eventually blasphemy and apostasy.
The group’s religious leaders took the first step in 2019 by replacing the term kafir with the word muwathinun or citizen to emphasize that Muslims and non-Muslims were equal before the law. “The word ‘kafir’ hurts some non-Muslims and is perceived to be theologically violent,” Nahdlatul Ulama cleric Abdul Moqsith Ghazali said at the time.
Independence also enabled Nahdlatul Ulama to embrace the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, parts of which are exempted by its religious soft power rivals. That is not to say that liberals may not take issue with some of the interpretations of the declaration by Nahdlatul Ulama, a socially conservative movement.
The differences raise questions about Nahdlatul Ulama’s ability to succeed beyond the significant inroads that the group has made among political and religious elites in the United States, Europe, the Vatican, and parts of Africa and Asia.
The launch in Washington of the unprecedented alliance and the book is together with Nahdlatul Ulama’s association with the Centrist Democrat International (CDI), the world’s largest grouping of political parties, the most publicly visible evidence of its success among elites.
The alliance puts flesh on the skeleton of recent inter-faith dialogue by bringing together two of Islam and Christianity‘s major groups. Nahdlatul Ulama has tens of millions of followers while the World Evangelical Alliance says it represents 600 million Protestants and national evangelical alliances in 140 countries. The alliance with Nahdlatul Ulama casts a different light on Evangelicals as opposed to Evangelists, who particularly, in the United States have often come to be identified with Christian nationalism and Islamophobia.
The alliance aims “to prevent the political weaponization of identity; curtail the spread of communal hatred; promote solidarity and respect among the diverse people, cultures and nations of the world; and foster the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being,” the Institute for Humanitarian Islam and the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, said in a press release.
With the creation of the Center for Shared Civilizational Values, the alliance also constitutes an effort to create a platform for a dialogue that moves beyond elites to nurture a grassroots movement in favour of religious reform across major religions that emphasizes inclusivity, pluralism, tolerance, and common values rather than exclusivism and supremacy fueled by identity politics. (In the spirit of transparency, this writer has been invited to be a member of the centre’s advisory board).
In doing so, the Center hopes to build on Nahdlatul Ulama’s substantial popular base in Indonesia, the WEA’s reach across the globe and a range of contacts and interactions with Catholic, Jewish, and Hindu groups and personalities.
The choice of Masjid Mohamed, the Nation’s Mosque, as the venue of the launch, suggests an outside-in strategy in trying to garner grassroots support in the Muslim world. Located in Washington’s historic African-American Shaw district, Masjid Muhammad is the first mosque in the United States built by descendants of slaves.
As such, the launch constitutes an outreach to a minority Muslim community in a Western democracy that despite upheaval in the United States as the country struggles to come to grips with its history of racism is likely to be more accessible and perhaps more open to Humanitarian Islam’s message than significant segments of the population in Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan or the Middle East where many see what has long become a global faith through the lens of its Arab origins.
The alliance takes on added significance in a Western world that despite the electoral defeat of former US President Donald J. Trump and setbacks in Europe suffered by populists and ultra-nationalists has in recent years increasingly mainstreamed prejudice, bias, and authoritarianism.
“Rather than the world becoming more like the United States, as so many of us expected after the Cold War, the United States has become more like the rest of the world—in particular, its authoritarians,” noted foreign policy analyst Steven A. Cook, debunking the projection of the US as a beacon of liberty and freedom.
In a twist of irony, Nahdlatul Ulama’s book publication coincided with a more narrowly focused and transactional Saudi-backed launch in Lebanon of a book, ‘The relationship between the Maronite patriarchate and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.’ Written by Maronite Father Antoine Daw, Saudi support for the book and outreach to the Maronites was part of the kingdom’s effort to counter Iran’s regional influence and engage the Islamic republic in direct and indirect issue-oriented dialogues.
The launch in Bkirki, the Maronite patriarchate’s episcopal see, followed a call by Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, Lebanon’s most senior Christian cleric, for a meeting with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that is Iran’s closest ally in the Arab world.
The patriarch urged Hezbollah, one of Lebanon’s most powerful groups that played a key role in Iranian support for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad to move towards a position of neutrality in a bid to salvage Lebanon that is teetering on the brink of economic and political collapse.
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