Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Transformation of Muslim Societies By Science & Technology?

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

The Muslim world was colonized and the most powerful tool in this process of colonization is generally considered to be western science and technology, although this assertion is open to questioning.

Once colonized, Muslim societies were transformed at the most fundamental level by the replacement of their basic institutions, models, heroes and, in most cases, the language of learning.

Following the conquest, assimilation or annexation, the colonized societies were subjected to a reign of terror. Old and established families were uprooted. Leading figures were executed or exiled, ruling classes and people of wealth and fame were made targets of special retribution. The continuity of institutions was disrupted and in many cases, they were destroyed in both the physical and the functional sense. After this period, which varied in length in different societies, new institutions were planted, a new administrative system was designed, and in time a new elite was created. This elite group was more than willing to cooperate with the colonial rulers.

Educated in the new educational system, these people had little or no knowledge of their history and heritage. Intoxicated by the glamour of their rulers, men and women of this elite group considered it an unbounded honor to speak the language of their colonial masters and think and act like them. They accepted the ideas presented to them by their Western mentors without any critical analysis. Their personalities and world views were shaped by the teachings of Western philosophers, and religion had little importance for them. The members of this elite group slowly became the leading figures in most of the colonized societies and the masses started to look toward them as their models.

The third phase of this process started with the second generation of the elite group. Raised in luxury and comfort and twice removed from the traditional sourcesthis generation was also removed from the period of terror and violence and was able to seek equality with the Western rulers. Some of them went to Europe for education and their experiences in the West contributed towards the development of a sense of their own self-dignity and equality with the colonizers.

This was the broad historical pattern. 

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal:

A scientist by training, an Islamic scholar by vocation, a novelist, and a poet, Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science, Canada, and editor of Islam & Science, a journal on science and civilization from Islamic perspectives.

He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from University of Saskatchewan, Canada, but most of his published work is related to Islam and various aspects of Islamic civilization, including the Islamic scientific tradition. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). He is currently working on a major project, Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, a first of its kind reference work on the Qur'an. He is also the General Editor of Ashgate's forthcoming series, Islam and Science: Historic and Contemporary Perspectives.

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