Thursday, June 28, 2007

204)The learning of mathematics was therefore linked to the Muslim religion and developing an understanding of the world....

Institute of Ismaili Studies

“The Mutual influence of Learning and the Development of Mathematical Thinking in the Arab Civilisation during 900-1200 AD”

Professor Afzal Ahmed
Oslo, Norway
May 2001

International comparative studies of school mathematics as manifested in the latest Third International Mathematics and Science Study (Boston College, 2001) has dictated educational discourse by politicians, educators and policy makers in many countries. The results of these studies, which rely heavily on tests, have often been regarded as a proof of the achievement of students as well as the quality of the curriculum.

This heightens the danger of increasingly regarding mathematics as an objective discipline with indisputable truths independent of learners and teachers. In other words, mathematics in contrast to Popper, Kuhn and others’ view of science, is independent of context, value systems and beliefs.’

In my presentation I will focus on how we can review the nature of mathematics as well as the process of teaching, learning and testing in order to help future generation to enhance their capacity for making judgements on increasingly complex issues which will form an integral part of their lives. I will mainly draw on the period 900-1200 CE, the period chosen as the focus of the conference. This was a vibrant period in the Arab civilisation for preserving, enhancing and communicating knowledge. It was a period when Muslims worked side by side with non-Muslims on works of philosophy, medicine, physics, mathematics, astronomy, geography, etc. At the basis of the Muslim religion was the fundamental concept of nature’s unity and the absolute oneness of God.

The learning of mathematics was therefore linked to the Muslim religion and developing an understanding of the world, which was helped by knowledge of the Qur’an and vice-versa. The objective was to make students capable of formulating and understanding abstractions and master symbols. Moving from concrete to the abstract, from experience to formulation of ideas and images, and from reality to symbolisation; this preparation was considered essential for improving the understanding of the Universe and its Creator.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
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(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)