Thursday, January 11, 2007

105)The gaping hole from the 7th to the 13th centuries in the pantheon of world knowledge.

I am currently going through the lectures from the course "Great ideas of Classical Physics", one of the many courses I bought from the Teaching Company during their recent Boxing day sale;

It is a formidable course, with an excellent, articulate lecturer. I am finding it most enjoyable and fulfilling. Of course, I was at my alma mater much of this past weekend sucking all this stuff in. About the lectures on the laws of motion, it says the following:

"The course opens in ancient Greece with Aristotle's commonsense analysis of motion. His ideas held sway until the early 1600s, when Galileo challenged them with one of the simplest yet most profound experiments of all time—he rolled marbles down an inclined plane.

The technique allowed Galileo to explore the action of gravity "in slow motion" to show that, contrary to Aristotle's claims, all objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass, and that the speed of a falling object steadily increases—it accelerates.

A generation after Galileo, Newton united the laws of heavenly and earthly motion in a grand synthesis that marked the full dawn of classical physics. The exploration of Newton's three laws of motion and his universal law of gravitation forms the core of the first half of the course."

This course, as with many other courses created in the western world, skips an important period between the time that Aristotle lived(a few hundred years BC) and the era of Galileo and Newton(16th and 17th centuries). To find this skipped information(relating to the period of the 7th to 13th centuries) I have to search many disparate and diverse sources. I and a billion point four other people await anxiously the righteous and rightful closing of this gaping hole in the pantheon of world knowledge. See also posts 3 and 9 on this blogsite. About this gaping hole in the recorded pantheon of world knowledge, Mowlana Hazar Imam(aka Aga Khan 4 or IV for you search engine groupies) has said the following:

"What does it (the West) know about the Islamic world? Is anything taught in secondary education? Does anybody know the names of the great philosophers, the scientists, the great theologians? Do they even know the names of the great civilizations?" [Interview 2 Feb. 2002"]

"The faith of a billion people is not part of the general education process in the West - ignored by school and college curricula in history, the sciences, philosophy and geography." [Houston Speech 2002]

"The basic problem is the enormous lack of knowledge of the Islamic world in the general world-culture. It's a rather remarkable thing and a very sad thing to me, that over a billion people, their 1400 year history, of civilizations, are simply not part of general education in the general Western world. It's a remarkable knowledge gap." [PTV Interview]

"From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, the Muslim civilizations dominated world culture, accepting, adopting, using and preserving all preceding study of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy, among other areas of learning. The Islamic field of thought and knowledge included and added to much of the information on which all civilisations are founded. And yet this fact is seldom acknowledged today, be it in the West or in the Muslim world, and this amnesia has left a six hundred year gap in the history of human thought." [Brown Univ. 1996].

"One of the first and greatest research centres, the Bayt al-Hikmah established in Baghdad in 830, led Islam in translating philosophical and scientific works from Greek, Roman, Persian and Indian classics. By the art of translation, learning was assimilated from other civilizations." [Speech 16 March 1983]

"It is no exaggeration to say that the original Christian universities of Latin West, at Paris, Bologna and Oxford, indeed the whole European renaissance, received a vital influx of new knowledge from Islam -- an influx from which the later western colleges and universities, including those of North Africa, were to benefit in turn." [Speech 16 March 1983]

"The tapestry of Islamic history is studded with jewels of civilization; these jewels poured forth their light and beauty; great statesmen, great philosophers, great doctors, great astronomers; but these individuals, these precious stones were worked into a tapestry, whose dominant theme was Islam, and this theme remained dominant regardless of the swallowing up of foreign lands, foreign cultures, foreign languages and foreign people." [Speech 30 Jan 1970]

"Above all, following the guidance of the Holy Quran, there was freedom of enquiry and research. The result was a magnificent flowering of artistic and intellectual activity throughout the ummah" [Speech 16 March 1983]

"An institution dedicated to proceeding beyond known limits must be committed to independent thinking. In a university scholars engage both orthodox and unorthodox ideas, seeking truth and understanding wherever they may be found. That process is often facilitated by an independent governance structure, which serves to ensure that the university adheres to its fundamental mission and is not pressured to compromise its work for short-term advantage. For a Muslim university it is appropriate to see learning and knowledge as a continuing acknowledgement of Allah's magnificence. As one looks back over the history of learning and of advancement, one sees time and again that centres of learning flourished in strong, outward-looking cultures. Great universities and libraries benefited from the nurturing conditions provided by self-confident civilisations and in turn gave back to those civilisations the useful products of scholarship. The strong university was not a sign of government's weakness, but rather its aspirations and its strength. In the great expansion of Muslim culture from the 8th through the 11th century, centres of learning flourished from Persia to Andalusia. I do not have to tell this audience about the glories of Al-Azhar established 1000 years ago by the Fatimids. This audience knows full well about the foresight of al-Ma'mun and the Timurid empire and in taking knowledge from all quarters and using it to benefit their society. As Ibn Khaldun wrote, "the Muslims desired to learn the sciences of foreign nations. They made them their own through translations. They pressed them into the mould of their own views. They took them over into their own language from the non-Arab languages and surpassed the achievements of the non-Arabs in them." (Aga Khan IV at the 10th anniversary of the founding of the AKU.)

"It (Surah of Light from the Quran) tells us that the oil of the blessed olive tree lights the lamp of understanding, a light that belongs neither to the East nor West. We are to give this light to all. In that spirit, all that we learn will belong to the world and that too is part of the vision I share with you." (Speech 25 Sept. 1979)

"The truth, as the famous Islamic scholars repeatedly told their students, is that the spirit of disciplined, objective enquiry is the property of no single culture, but of all humanity. To quote the great physician and philosopher, Ibn Sina: "My profession is to forever journeying, to travel about the universe so that I may know all its conditions."" [Speech 16 March 1983]

"At various times in world history, the locus of knowledge has moved from one centre of learning to another. Europe once came to the Islamic world for intellectual enrichment—and even rediscovered its own classical roots by searching in Arabic texts.
Astronomy, the so-called “Science of the Universe” was a field of particular distinction in Islamic civilization.-–in sharp contrast to the weakness of Islamic countries in the field of Space research today. In this field, as in others, intellectual leadership is never a static condition, but something which is always shifting and always dynamic.
Indeed, Islamic culture in past centuries was distinctly dynamic--constantly reaching out-- both to India and the East and to Europe and the West-- for enrichment. Throughout history, confident cultures from every part of the world have been eager to seek new learning, not to dilute inherited traditions but to amplify and extend them. The great civilizations of Islam were prime examples.
More than a millennium ago, as early as the 8th century, the original Abbasids, ruling as Caliphs in Baghdad, set up academies and libraries where new knowledge was honored-- independent of its source. The Fatimids continued this tradition—reaching out from their base in Cairo—established in the 10th century—to welcome learned figures from distant lands. A bit later, Ghazni, in Afghanistan, became another center of learning—again by reaching out.
By the time of the Safavid era—halfway through the second millennium--cultural leaders of all types--mathematicians, scientists, painters, musicians, and writers-- were moving constantly from country to country and court to court-- from the Safavid centers in Iran to the Mughal courts of India, and the Uzbek court at Bukhara in what is now Uzbekistan."(Convocation, American University of Cairo, June 15th 2006)

Most importantly, our present Imam has clarified, in the easiest kind of language possible, the delicate and intimate balance necessary in order to acquire the greatest benefit from different modes of knowledge:

"..........In Islamic belief, knowledge is two-fold. There is that revealed through the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) and that which man discovers by virtue of his own intellect. Nor do these two involve any contradiction, provided man remembers that his own mind is itself the creation of God. Without this humility, no balance is possible. With it, there are no barriers. Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation....."(Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan, 1983).


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4.
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3