This post by blogger Meam Why was published in an old blog of mine. I like it so well that I’ve decided to repost it, even though she is no longer blogging. The post is below.
Her blog, “Shining History – Medieval Islamic Civilization”– is one I enjoyed as I explored with her the rich history of Islamic civilization, especially in the areas of engineering, medicine, science, aviation, cosmetology, education and the creation of hospitals. All of these fields owe a tremendous debt to the pioneering work of the people she writes about. I would hazard a guess that most people in the West know nothing at all about these people and the contributions they made. What we hear about is a tiring litany of negative reportage and comments about Islam and Islamic civilization.
Meam Wye’s guest column today is a response to some of that. A reprint of a comment by someone known as “burymore”, and her reply, appears below. First, the comment by “burymore”:
“If muslims would come to realize that the fundamentalist extremes of their culture are holding them back, then they might have a scientist or inventor of note that lived more recently than three hundred years ago.
There is not an invention or scientific breakthrough of any importance to come from the muslim world in centuries…. seeing this list of great minds from a thousand years ago only points that out more.
Quit marginalizing half your population. (Quit treating women like garbage) and quit putting the spiritual leaders in charge of the governments, and maybe Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and all the rest can actually progress a little as nations.”
Next, Meam Wye’s reply:
“I fully agree with the second paragraph of your comment -more than a couple of centuries that any significant contribution has been made. This raises two important questions:
1. What were the factors behind the rise of this glorious civilization?
2. Why this civilization declined?
These are thought-provoking questions, the answers to which require an in depth study of history, religion and a detailed analysis of socio-political situations in various eras to reach at some meaningful conclusion.
I am unable to understand your term ‘fundamentalist extremes of their [Muslim] culture‘. Different countries, with predominant Muslim population, have different cultures -food/dresses/language/ arts/literature/architecture/wedding festivals etc. Being Muslims, as guided by Islam, they however do share common elements as well. For example, the greeting ‘Assalaam-O-Alaikum’ (meaning: Peace be upon you) taught by Prophet Mohammad (Peace be Upon Him) is the same across different Muslim countries/continents. So is true for many other traditions including the way Muslims clean themselves, what they don’t consider lawful to eat, the manner in which Ramadan and Eid are observed/celebrated, the preference of opening fast with dates (although other menu items vary greatly across different regions), the ability to at least read, if not comprehend, Arabic (the language of Quran) by almost every educated Muslim, irrespective of the mother tongue and so on. I and for that matter any unbiased person cannot see any elements of ”fundamentalist extremes of their [Muslim] culture’ in this.
If you are referring to the barbaric customs, like honor killings etc. then these barbaric/beyond humanity acts have absolutely no link/place in Islam. In fact, Islam very strictly prohibits the killing of innocent people and violation of human (and other living creatures) rights.
Beyond humanity/barbaric acts that are carried out in the name of culture/religion, are unfortunately part of many ‘non-Muslim’ countries/societies as well. For example, in India, considered to be the largest democracy of the world, there is a custom called ‘sati’ among Hindus in which the widow of the deceased husband is burned ALIVE along with his husband’s dead body! The last ‘reported’ case of Sati (though outlawed) is dated, not a century back, it’s October 11, 2008. Quite shocking. Have you ever heard of ‘Bridal Burning’? According to a recent official report, 6000 women, each year, are murdered by putting gasoline and fire on them in India. Reason: these women do not fulfill the demands of dowry by their husband [Hindus traditionally consider dowry as a ‘groom-price’ – money/valuables that the man is entitled to for taking the woman in marriage]. Several examples of these and other kinds of horrifying acts can be found in many other under-developed/developing countries and uncivilized cultures. However, the media never labels them as ‘Fundamentalist Hindu/Christian/any other religion Culture‘.
Your third point ‘Quit Treating women like Garbage’: This blogger is a woman and an engineer (with a Masters degree). Had I been treated like garbage, I would have been in a garbage dump or inside a landfill and not online now. Whatever I have achieved (and I’ve got a resume in which there is plenty in the ‘Honors’ section to boast of), perhaps would not have been possible without the great and continuous support and love of two MEN – initially from my late father and later from my husband. And I am not the only example. There are numerous other Muslim women across various countries and societies, making positive contributions in life while being treated respectfully like a fellow human being, both by their respective societies and their families.
Like many other countries of the world, violation of women’s right are unfortunately part of, to varying degrees, of many Muslim countries as well………again nothing to do with Islam and something that is, beyond any kind of doubt, truly deplorable. Violation of any living being’s (human beings, animals and plants) rights is equally and highly deplorable.
Do you know that the oldest continuously-operating degree-granting university in the world, as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, was founded by a Muslim woman Fatima in 859 CE – 9th century. Oxford University did not allow women as late as 1878! This is just one small example. There are numerous other great examples, starting with the women during the life of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon him). This in itself is a topic for a whole book.
Islam gave women the rights that are now taken for granted but was unthinkable of in the 7th century. Many of these fundamental human rights were not given by the west to women as late as 19th century! Islam gave women: the right of being human (with rewards of good deeds equal to men), the right of earning, the right of inheritance, the right of owning property (married/unmarried/divorced/ widowed), the right to get divorce, the right to choose her husband, the right to say no for marriage proposal without giving any reason, the right to get custody of children after divorce, the right to be provided for and cared by father/spouse/brothers, the right to get education, the right to teach others [including men], the right to pass religious judgments, the right to argue, disagree and advise men on any matter – political, religious or personal at any place – home, mosque or public, the right to re-marry after divorce or husband’s death, the right not to spend their own earnings on their family if they don’t want to (unlike men, women have a choice here 🙂 ), the right that no woman is held responsible or faces gender discrimination on account of the mistake committed by both Adam and Eve (not Eve alone), the advantage of being considered as ‘Blessing of Allah’ if you are lucky to be a female child and many more.
Whatever and wherever violation of human rights – women, men, senior citizens, children or animals – it is unfortunately a common practice among many countries – more common in developing/under developed countries. Had these violations of basic human rights not been there, these countries would have also been progressing.
Regarding the ‘spiritual leadership’, I again fail to understand your usage of this term. There are two points. First, in the countries you mentioned, the leadership either is monarchy (Saudi Arabia), dictator-ship/occupied (Iraq) or democracy/presidential (Iran, Syria & Egypt). Nothing spiritual as you put it. Secondly and more important: the problem is with the Leadership – spiritual or non-spiritual. The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were done on the orders of Harry S. Truman – the 33rd president of United states ………… Was he a spiritual Muslim leader? The crime considered to be the biggest in the history of this world against one race – Was Hitler a spiritual Muslim leader? The recent economic turmoil in USA? George Bush was the last US president for eight consecutive years…………Was he a spiritual leader? The two Opium wars in the nineteenth century on China – courtesy British and French empires…….Were Queen Victoria or Napoleon Bonaparte spiritual leaders? This list can be easily extended without much research. The problem lies with the leadership. The world is expecting a lot from President Obama – Let’s be hopeful 🙂
Although, you have not mentioned Afghanistan but I think that many readers might be thinking about the ‘spiritual leadership’ of Taliban. A country, that has been almost completely destroyed by three decades of war and carpet bombings – more than one million civilians were killed, more than three million were wounded and five million became refugee by the end of first decade of war only! It is a country where babies who were born thirty years ago, on arriving in this beautiful world, did not hear some sweet melodious sounds of nature or the soothing voice of their parents as their first sounds; they heard the horrifying sounds of dropping bombs and the never ending gun shots. When these babies started crawling, they came across dead bodies of their parents, saw blood while trying to swallow food, witnessed broken limbs and chopped arms of their siblings (if some miracle saved them from getting blind), interacted with paralyzed and shocked people, sighted the frightening faces and bodies of people with chemical burn injuries, played outside their destroyed homes with bombs disguised as toys (booby traps) and had destructed natural surroundings for their pleasure with nothing worth while to eat, what to speak of getting education! Living this life for three consecutive decades, they never even got a chance to live a life that even wild animals/beasts are blessed with – peace in the beautiful nature. Now after growing up, if they behave in an uncivilized manner, does the solution lies in continuing to kill them like cockroaches, by the so-called civilized world, or in reaching out to them and teaching them with love and compassion? A question that is not difficult to answer.
I thank you for your feedback and for sharing your views, ‘burymore’. It would have been better had you chosen not to be anonymous by making your blogger profile private. Understanding each other is the first essential step towards making this beautiful world a livable place for everyone. I strongly feel that the need of the hour is to be less judgmental and a little responsible in reaching conclusions and forming strong opinions.