taken from : http://www.islam-watch.org/alamgirhussain/myth_islams_contribution.htm


Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

The Myth of Islamic Contribution to Human Civilization


Since the tragic incident of September 11, 2001 when 19 suicidal Muslim terrorists rammed airplanes into the World Trade Centre in New York and Pentagon Headquarters killing more than 3000 innocent people, Islam, as a religion, has come under serious scrutiny. A number of books, critically examining Islamic doctrine have been published, whilst volumes of articles and essays, critical of Islam are being published in print media and in the Internet on a daily basis. This is a new experience to Muslims. Indeed, despite being an evidently obscurantist religion, Islam has escaped its due share of criticisms for a long time. For example: hundreds of books and essays critical of Christianity or Hinduism have been freely available in the library and media for a long time whilst such materials on Islam have been virtually absent, since a few titles that were published were banned. Indeed, any attempt to criticize Islam has been silenced through Islamic "rogue justice" called Fatwa as has happened to Salman Rushdie, author of "Satanic Verses". The tragic event of 9/11 (2001) has acted as a catalyst in the hands of the critiques of Islam to invigorate their criticism of Islam. These critiques include moderate Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims.

As Islam is increasingly being portrayed as an obscurantist and a violent religion which promotes cruelty, armed militancy, human rights violation and a hindrance to progress and modernization, the Muslim apologists - who go by the label "moderate Muslims" - are desperately trying to defend Islam as a religion of peace, progress and modernity. In their desperation, Muslim apologists are often making extraordinary claims such as Islam's contribution to human civilization as a measure of Islam progressiveness.


Islamic Golden Age and Contribution to Civilization

Similarly, Muslims, whenever they talk about Islam's contributions to civilization, also quickly point to the great Muslim poets, philosophers and scientists, namely Omar Khayam, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd et al. of the so-called Islamic Golden Age, spanning from 8th to the 14th century. There is no denying the fact that these great Muslim people have made significant contributions to human society. But we must address the essential question: "How good Muslims were they?" The truth is, they were hardly good Muslims and in correct religious term, many of them would qualify to be apostates of Islam and indeed, the-then Islamic clerics had called them heretics.

During the so-called Islamic Golden Age (8th-14th century), the Islamic world was most advanced in Science, Technology, Industries, trading and in many other fields compared to other parts of the world. Indeed, during that  period, Islamic world produced many scientific, literary and philosophical genius, such as Omar Khayam (1048-1122), Al-Zahrawi (936-1013), Al-Khowarizmi (780-850); Al-Biruni (973-1050), Al-Kindi (801-873), Al-Battani (850-929 CE), Ibn-Sina (973-1037), Abdallah al-Ma'arri (973-1057), Omar Khayam (1048-1122), Ibn-Rushd (1128-1198) and Jalaluddin Rumi (Birth 1207) amongst others.

There is no doubt about the greatness of these genius intellectuals who were indeed without any parallel in their fields of scholarship amongst the compatriots from other religions on the world stage. However, there is something very interesting about that period of Islamic Golden Age - from the time preceding and following that period. It should first be considered that that was the time, when the Christian world of Europe went into the grip of the Christian Churches which plunged the fast progressing and prospering Europe, inspired by Greek philosophy of Hellenistic Age into the proverbial Dark Age. However, exactly the opposite was happening in the Islamic world during this time. Greek rationalism and philosophy disappeared from Europe but emerged in the nascent Islamic world which gave rise to a new Islamic doctrine called Mutazili, originated during the period of 'Abbasid Caliphate' (749-847 AD).

Mutazili theology originated in the 8th century in al-Basrah (also called Besra), the great Iraqi City, when Wasil Ibn 'Atta' left the teaching lessons of al-Hasan al-Basri after a theological dispute. Thus, Ibn 'Atta' and his followers were labeled "Mutazili" which means "deserter of Islam". The Mutazili theology expanded on the logic and rationalism of Greek philosophy, seeking to combine them with Islamic doctrines, and show that they were inherently compatible.

During this period, several questions were being debated by Muslim theologians, including whether the Qur'an was created or eternal, whether evil was created by God, the issue of predestination vs. free will, whether God's attributes in the Qur'an were to be interpreted allegorically or literally, and whether sinning believers would have eternal punishment in hell. Mu'tazila thought attempted to address all these issues.

The Mu'tazila ideology believed that Koran was created by Mohammad; it was not the words of Allah. They believed that Prophet Muhammad could not have direct conversation with the allegedly visually perceptible Allah, who is claimed to be invisible and imperceptible in the Koran. And this doctrine, which amounts to absolute heresy, as per Islam, was promoted by the-then Abbasid Caliphates Haroon al-Rasheed (763-809) and was made the official court belief by his son, the great Caliph al-Mamun. Caliph al-Mamun even instituted inquisition-style persecution, called Mihna in Arabic meaning Ordeal (833-848), for those who would not accept the Mutazili ideology, instead of Koranic Islam. The most famous victims of the Mihna were Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who was imprisoned and tortured, and the judge Ahmad Ibn Nasr al-Khuza'i who was crucified.

Thus, the Islamic Golden Age is a time, which was characterized by the development of a rather anti-Islamic Mutazili theology, inspired by the rational reasoning and freethinking of the pre-Christianity Greek Rationalism. And those Muslims scholars, who enriched science, mathematics, medicine, philosophy and rational thinking - the defining elements of the Islamic Golden Age, belonged to the un-Islamic Mutazili school, unlike contemporary Sunni Islamic scholars, such as al-Bukhari, Abu Daud and Imam Ghazali et al., of the true Islamic school. Given these facts, it is totally untenable and silly to claim that the golden era of progress and prosperity of Islamic world was ever positively influenced by Islam but instead, it was made possible because true Islamic ideology took the back seat during that era.

We must also consider that the ratio of Nobel laureates between Muslims and Jews are ~1:100. This huge disparity can be easily accounted for by the fact that Islamic world is deeply religious as compared to the Jews or Christians. Since majority of Jews and Christians have been able to overcome the bigotry and dogmatic beliefs of their religions, they are more able to be creative and contribute to our world.

Christianity and Modern Civilization

It is true that modern civilization boomed in post-Dark Age Christian Europe and it requires investigation before crediting this boom to the Christian faith. It is obvious that many scientists, philosophers and writers from Christian background contributed heavily to the evolution of our civilization through the days of Renaissance and Industrial Revolution in Europe. The great Copernicus, Galileo and Newton et al. were all born as Christians. But should their mammoth contribution to scientific revolution owe anything to the Christian faith? If examined what these great scientists did - we will realize that they indeed spelled the death-knell for the Christian faith by establishing fact that the earth moves round the sun, contrary to what is repeatedly spelled in the Bible that the earth is immovable and at the center of the universe. This one single discovery has harmed Christian religion more than anything else. Thus, in truth, these great scientists should be called heretics and greatest enemy of Christianity despite their attachment with that religion.

Bertrand Russell also gives a vivid account of how Christianity hindered and degraded everything that the modern civilization stands for. He writes:

"Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of wars; religion prevents us from teaching the scientific co-operation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment.

In fact, like the boom of the so-called Islamic Golden Age, the flourishing of human civilization in the post-Dark Age Europe, is also solidly credited to the pre-Christianity Greek Rationalism, instead of Christian faith itself. In this regard, Michael Hart in his "The 100" writes:

"That Science did eventually arise in Europe is indeed an indication that there was something in the European cultural heritage that was favorable to the scientific way of thinking. That something, however, was not the sayings of Jesus, but rather Greek rationalism, as typified by the works of Aristotle and Euclid. It is noteworthy that modern science developed, not in the heyday of church power but rather on the heels of the renaissance, a period during which Europe experienced a renewal of interest in its pre-Christian heritage."

Bertrand Russell also laughed at those modern Christians who claim how rationalistic Christianity is!  He wrote:

"It is amusing to hear the modern Christian telling you how mild and rationalistic Christianity really is and ignoring the fact that all its mildness and rationalism is due to the teaching of men who in their own days were persecuted by all orthodox Christians..."

Religion's Contribution to Morality and Governance

While talking to religious friends, I repeatedly hear that religions have contributed heavily in shaping people's morality and system of Governance around the world. Some of the overly enthusiastic modern Christians even go on to claim that all state laws of the Western democracy have been derived from the Bible. Let us discuss about Democracy, the most appreciated and preferred system of Governance today. Thomas Jefferson, the father of modern democracy, who governed America about 200 years ago, made some stunning statements (in agreement with Russell's) about his disagreement and frictions with Christianity:

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity." [Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782.]

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes." [Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.]

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." [Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814]. [http://www.nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm]

The clergy-ruled Europe may have burned an estimated 9 million women alive labeling them as "witch" as per Biblical injunction, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death." [Exo 22:18-19] If American were ruled by the Biblical laws today, we would still have seen slavery, persecution of non-Christians, burning of atheist and apostates at the stakes and stoning of adulterers to death etc. The modern immigrants from Asia and Africa, who enjoys equal rights today, would probably be working as slaves without any civil rights and liberties as the Black people have experienced for hundreds of years.

We, however, witness the contributions and influence of Islamic Laws, called Sharia, derived from the Koran and Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad's actions and sayings) in Governance of many Islamic countries today. Secular democracy has not evolved in the Muslim world. Sharia-based ruling system in Muslim countries has brought about immense miseries to the people: there are gross violations of fundamental human rights, the religious minorities are continually persecuted, women's rights have been miserably poor, and Muslim countries are desperately backward in education, science, technology, medicine and wealth. Sharia-based Taleban-rule in Afghanistan is the most tragic example of that.

Concluding Remarks

Going back to the statements of Thomas Jefferson about religions, we must realize that Jefferson was the president of America some 200 years ago. And the kind of vicious comments he used to make towards the religious clergy as an incumbent president, it is easy to understand what kind of struggle he had to endure to in order to found the ground of present-day democracy, a great pillar of our modern civilization. By this time, it is safe to draw the conclusion that Islam and other Abrahamic religions or any other religions for that matter, have contributed virtually nothing or very little to human civilization but instead has only hindered its progress and prosperity and brought immense brutality and sufferings to mankind. If not for the religions, our world would have been a lot more civilized, just, peaceful and advanced today.

Originally written on 9 April, 2004. Edited on 7 April, 2005

Hit Counter 101206