Recently, a renowned social scientist, Noam Chomsky commented that “Pakistan used to have advanced science with Nobel laureates and so on… Pakistan has no future if it lives in religious superstition.” He spoke in a live webinar arranged by Habib University.
Chomsky has rightly said that Pakistan had top-class scientists like Dr. Abdul Salam who received the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of Physics. But Islam certainly does not ask Muslims to keep themselves away from education.
It is unclear what religious superstitions are, according to Noam Chomsky, keeping the country from realizing its potential. He must make it clear before the people, who know little about Islamic teachings start consuming his delusional beliefs.
In fact, this has already started happening; after his remarks, certain academics appear convinced that may be it is the religion which has kept Pakistan from making scientific progress.
If Chomsky and other people think that Islam does not allow the freedom of conscience, education and reasoning, then they are certainly unaware of the guidance put forth in the main sources of Islam — the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.
Read more: Pakistan: Why is Prof. Noam Chomsky’s analysis not so apt?
What are the teachings of Islam?
Islam does not stop Muslims from acquiring knowledge or making scientific advancements. It, in fact, calls upon its followers to seek knowledge and wisdom, and to reason. The Holy Quran says, “Surely the worst of beasts in God’s sight are those that are deaf and dumb and do not reason. (8:22)”
Furthermore, Almighty Allah says in the Quran: “O You who have attained faith! If any iniquitous person comes to you with [salenderous] tale, use your discernment, lest you hurt people unwittingly and afterwards be filled with remorse for what you have done.” Clearly, the verse emphasizes the importance of reasoning and verification of information.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever goes out seeking knowledge then he is in Allah’s cause until he returns.” It must not be forgotten that it was the guidance of Islam that made early Muslims of the 6th century and so on, to seek knowledge and make scientific discoveries.
Even though the Holy Quran is not a “book of science”, as Dr. Zakir Naik says; it aroused curiosity in the minds of its early followers to educate themselves. One of the reasons for this was that the Quran revealed how the universe was formed, how a human being was created, and how a human body works. All these ideas and an emphasis on seeking more knowledge pushed Muslims to read Greek and other literature and reason upon it. This resulted in creativity that helped them discover secrets of the universe and laid the foundation for modern sciences including Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Algebra. Therefore, it is wrong to say that a nation which follows Islam has ‘no future’.
Read more: Fawad Chaudhry agrees with Noam Chomsky comments of religious superstition in Pakistan
Superstitions and Islam are poles apart
There are superstitions which may have prevented modern Muslims from getting scientific knowledge. But those are certainly not part of Islamic values. Then where did these come from? They came after the 10th century AD from certain interests harboured by some personalities. These people thought that science would make people challenge their authority. For example, the printing press was not allowed in the Ottoman Empire when it was invented in the 15th century.
Those who believe that the Ottoman Empire was based upon rigid Islamic principles are mistaken. Mustafa Kemal was the first man who claimed that the printing press in the Empire was imported after a 250-year-long delay because of religious bigotry. This was incorrect.
Niyazi Berkes, a historian known for his tilt towards Kemalism, admitted that “Calligraphers constituted the main opposition group” to the printing press, not the Ulema. To be fair, Seyhul-Islam Abdullah, a renowned scholar in the Empire, decreed that the printing press should be imported. It’s noteworthy that the opposition to the printing press was on an economic basis, not religious.
This is one of the reasons which prevented Muslims from making advancements. They didn’t have access to books because the handwritten ones were expensive and few in quantity. Again, such prohibitions are not supported by the Quranic principles.
Anti-creationists say that the belief that man is the best creature of God makes Muslims to not discover anything else. Is it even believable? Muslims, if anything, should be motivated by such ideas, and not the contrary, as being the best creations of God one would be compelled to explore the deepest mysteries of the world.
Read more: Did Prof. Noam Chomsky condemn Shakil-ur-Rehman’s arrest?
It is the misinterpretation or a complete aloofness from the Quran that has caused the decline of Muslims. Most of the Muslims do not understand the Holy Quran because they do not read the translation. Due to this, some religious scholars and some science lovers use the opportunity to mislead the Muslims for their personal gains.
Every Muslim should read the translation of the Holy Book and try to implement its principles. This will allow them to challenge such superstitions. Moreover, they must also take education seriously and resort to reason, for this will lead them to scientific advancement and make this world a better place for everyone. As Almighty Allah says “But do good; for Allah loves those who do good.”
Fahad Aziz Taherani is the Coordinating Editor at Global Village Space (GVS) News Publication. He has a keen interest in Central Superior Services of Pakistan. He tweets at fahadtaherani. The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.