Editorial: Muslim Heritage

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This article was first Published on Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at – :


This is the kind of statement that needs to be said, and am glad they did “Quite simply, the story of Arab and Muslim scientific excellence centuries ago is not the private property of only Arabs and Muslims. It is one for the entire world, Muslim and non-Muslim, to celebrate. ” Indeed, that should be the case with every invention and every advancement.

Prophet Muhammad had defined a good deed as something you do that benefits the other, as the good work of people from the past is benefiting you. The specific example was about planting a tree, that would give shade and fruit to the wayfarer, an unselfish act; a good deed.

We appreciate the King Abdullah University and the US Library of congress for preserving the work for the future generatins.

Mike Ghouse

Editorial: Muslim Heritage
15 April 2008

In an age when heritage in so many parts of the world is either ignored, Disneyized into theme parks or, worse still, subjected to the destructive onslaught of the bulldozer and the developer, it is encouraging to learn that the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the US Library of Congress plan to digitize all Arab and Muslim scientific records. The information, showing clearly the great achievements of Arab Muslim civilization, will be available free of charge on the Internet through the World Digital Library.

This is very significant and important news. One of the aims of the library, to be launched by UNESCO early next year, is the promotion of international and intercultural understanding. Access, at the touch of a mouse, to proof of past Arab scientific prowess will promote just that. For Arabs and Muslims, it will be cause for pride and should help strip away the destructive sense of intellectual inferiority to Western culture that has been such a debilitating element in much of Arab thinking over the past century. For non-Muslims, especially those who through blindness or malevolence continue to regard Muslims as backward and ignorant, it should be an eye-opener and thus do much to improve relations between the two groups

Quite simply, the story of Arab and Muslim scientific excellence centuries ago is not the private property of only Arabs and Muslims. It is one for the entire world, Muslim and non-Muslim, to celebrate. The part played by Arabs and Muslim scientists was momentous and influenced later European science. Some in the West have heard of Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd under their Europeanized names of Avicenna and Averroes, but how many have heard of Yuhanna ibn Massuwayh and his work on allergy? Or Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya Ar-Razi who wrote the famous Al-Hawi, a 30-volume medical encyclopedia and studied the nature of smallpox 900 years before the Englishman Edward Jenner came up with a vaccine? Or Abdul Qasim Az-Zahrawi who was the father of surgery? How many know that thirteen hundred years ago the first known hospital was established in Damascus and that the first pharmacies appeared in Baghdad shortly after? How many know of the army of scientists and scholars that were there and in Islamic Spain, of their search for knowledge, of the discoveries made, the libraries established? How many know that much of the literature and philosophy of the ancient world was rediscovered in Europe through Arabic translations?

That this project is being undertaken by KAUST in collaboration with the US Library of Congress, one of the most important libraries in the world, is both worthwhile and encouraging. This is one of the first projects at KAUST; the university has the lofty aim of inspiring a new age of Arab scientific research and achievement. With this project, looking back to the golden age, one can say with some certainty that it looks set to become a center of excellence not just for Saudi Arabia but for the entire academic world.

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