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1. Education has always played a dominating role in forming the destiny of nations and people. Muslims saw their prime owing largely to educational and intellectual fields. Now, considering the present state, top educationists and intellectuals of the Muslim world have been emphasising upon the importance of educational reforms. Increasing the priority of educational is the answer to many questions. However, it takes a back seat when viewed in relation to the immediate steps that every one wants to take individually to solve the problems in hand at a particular time.


2. A state of helplessness seems to have set in where the Muslims all over the world have conformed to and accepted their present value in the eyes of the world. The West has also endeavoured to undermine and disparage the contributions made by the Muslims in all the scientific fields. The tendency of terming Islam as a religion that is out of touch with the realities of the present world has become a norm. To make the matters worse, there is a constant brain drain in progress where the able Muslims opt to pursue their goals of prosperity and move in to the clutches of the West to have their skills exploited at will. Their countries of origin have failed to stop this drainage. Resultantly, the capabilities of the Muslims are not properly tapped to benefit the very societies that need them the most. Lack of good governance, mismanagement and lure of the West has created a vicious cycle that if continued will keep the Muslims at the mercy of the West and their interpretations.


3. Undoubtedly, science and technology is the engine of modern development. But to utilise the engine one needs a perfect and secure vehicle, a proper road to drive and then traffic laws to reach the destination after a safe and secure journey.
4. There is a need to understand what and how Muslim Ummah should proceed in general in order to revive and exploit the universal appeal of their religion in relation to the scientific education. In order to regain the lost confidence and to inspire the Muslim youth about their rich heritage, there is a requirement to highlight the truth about the share of contribution of Islam to the benefit of the humanity. After analyzing the factors leading to the retardation in the field of education, a remedial strategy to start a reversal of the state of Muslims can be worked out.



5. The aim of this paper is to analyse the role of contributions of Muslims in the fields of science and intellectual development, the factors leading to the downturn of the Muslim’s progress including the current brain drain phenomenon, in order to recommend remedial measures.


6. Sequence. The sequence of this paper is as following:-
a. Part I. Muslim’s contribution towards scientific and intellectual fields.
b. Part II. Reasons and effects of current brain drain phenomenon
c. Part III. Misrepresentation of Islam being a medieval religion.
d. Part IV. Recommendations.


7. Islamic Concept of Education.

 Islam has greatly emphasised on the importance of education to conquer the forces and resources of nature. That is possible only through the acquisition of adequate knowledge through a well-balanced, elaborate and all-embracing system of education. It involves harnessing human potential and then to utilize external forces in subservience to the Qur’anic values for the benefit of all the mankind. This provides us “identity, self-discipline and academic pursuits - all of the highest excellence but our difficulty, without any conspicuous flamboyant grandiloquent style and scintillating phrase, is that we overpower the forces of nature without being able to overwhelm the forces which lie within ourselves ”


8. Contribution of Muslims.

The great and glorious heritage of Muslims can be recalled by briefly surveying what Islam has already contributed to the world’s civilization, education, culture and to scientific development. A few of the examples of contributions made by the Muslim Scientists in the field of science include the following.
a. Numerology. Muhammad Ibn Musa, who was also the first to use the decimal point notation, invented the zero.
b. Trigonometry / Sine / Tangent / Co - Tangent. The Arabs developed these and Ibn Musa’s work “Hisab-Al Jab-Wal Muqabala” (meaning the Calculation of Integration and Equation) presented 800 examples in the eight century. His work was translated from Arabic into Latin and until the 16th century, it was Europe’s main text book on the subject.
c. Geometry / Algebra. Another great mathematician was Omar Khayyam, who offered to the world geometric as well as algebraic solutions of the second degree. Nasiruddin wrote the treatise on the quadrilateral trigonometry, as well as plain and spherical geometry.
d. Physics. Kamaluddin examined the refraction of sun light in raindrops and actually explained the genesis of primary and secondary rainbows. The story of the invention of the pendulum and the presentation of a water clock to Emperor Charlemagne by Harun Al Rashid is well known.
e. Science of Mechanics. The development of science of Mechanics in Islam is an act of genius. Musa Ibn Shakir described one hundred pieces of mechanical equipment in his book of artifices. Other outstanding Muslim treatises included “Al Kitab Fi Marifat Al Hiya Al Handasiyya” (The Book of the Knowledge of Ingenious Geometrical Contrivances” by Abul Fiaz Ibn Al Raz. He also did work on accurate weighing, determination of specific Gravity.
f. Camera Obscura. In the field of optics, Camera Obscura was invented by Ibn Haitham in 1038 AD.
g. Theory of Relativity. Hazrat Qazi Abu Bakr had developed the theory of relativity in the Eighth Century in terms of time and space by means of mathematical equations and Astrophysics. Imagine Einstein wasn’t even born in the western world, who propounded the same theory of relativity in the Twentieth Century.
h. Geography. As far as Geography was concerned, the Muslim Scientists established in the ninth century that the world was round and under the Caliphate of Mamun, the first map of the globe was made.
i. Paper Makings. This was one of the earliest skills attained by the Muslims. As early as the Eighth Century, high quality paper was being manufactured in Samarkand. Egypt was known to have its first paper mill in the year 900 A.C. The earliest Arabic manuscript written on paper that has been discovered is the Gharib Al Hadith by Abu Ubayed, dated 837 A.C. It can be seen in Holland preserved in the Library of University of Leyden.
j. Advances in the Industry. Spain under the Islamic rule was an industrial centre. It was one of the wealthiest and thickly populated of European countries. Muslims were leading in Weaving Wool, Silk, Home Pottery, Jewellery, Leather and Perfume Industry. In the middle ages, the world trade was commanded by the Muslims and Baghdad, Bokhara and Samarkand remained centers for world fairs until the 16th Century.
k. Libraries. The Bait Al Hikmah, at Cairo contained 2 Million books, the library at Tripoli some 3 Millions but the Christians burnt down this library during the first crusade. Many such libraries were burnt down during the Crusades and it is interesting to note that where the books on theology were destroyed, those on scientific subjects were preserved by them for their own use.

9. It was not science only, which brought Europe back to life. Other and manifold influence from the civilization of Islam communicated its first glow to European Life. Although there is not a single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic Culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so “clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the permanent distinctive force of the modern world, and the supreme source of its victory, natural science and the scientific spirit ”.

10. Important fields like Astronomy and Mathematics were imported by the Greeks and were never properly absorbed by their culture. The subjects remained generalized in nature until “the patient ways of investigation, the accumulation of positive knowledge, the minute method of science, detailed and prolonged observation and experimental inquiry ” were introduced by the Muslims.


11. Leaving this aside, let us consider the scientific facts in the Holy Quran. It is indicated that the earth was previously a part of the sun and after its separation; it became a habitable place for humanity, as mentioned in Surah 21, Ayat 30. That the matter is made up of sub atomic particles (Surah, 10, Ayat 61). That the embryo in the mother’s womb in enclosed by 3 epithelial coverings (Surah 39, Ayat 6). That each human being has a unique fingerprint (Surah 75, Ayat 4) etc. etc. There are thousands of other scientific facts in the Holy Quran.


12. It was under the influence of the Arabs and Moorish revival of culture and not in the 15th century, that a real renaissance took place. Spain, not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After steadily sinking lower and lower into barbarism, it had reached the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when cities of the Saracen world, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordova, and Toledo, were growing centres of civilization and intellectual activity. It was there that the new life arose which was to grow into new phase of human evolution. From the time when the influence of their culture made itself felt, began the stirring of new life.


13. The downfall of Muslims is not due to Islam as the West would have us believe but due to Muslims themselves for their sheer neglect of Islamic principles. They must realize that Islam has been and is undeniably the most progressive religion which is in fact a way of life with a very wide scope.


14. Acknowledgement by Western Scholars. A few Western Scientists, historians and intellectuals acknowledged the contribution of Muslims in various fields of science and their effects on Western advancements. Some of the remarks are quoted below.
a. Historian Gibbons. He wrote in his fifth volume of “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” that the science of Chemistry owes its origin and improvements to the Muslims .
b. George Sarton . “It will suffice here to evoke a few glorious names without contemporary equivalents in the West: Jabir ibn Haiyan, al-Kindi, al-Khwarizmi, al-Fargani, al-Razi, Thabit ibn Qurra, al-Battani, Hunain ibn Ishaq, al-Farabi, Ibrahim ibn Sinan, al-Masudi, al-Tabari, Abul Wafa, ‘Ali ibn Abbas, Abul Qasim, Ibn al-Jazzar, al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, Ibn Yunus, al-Kashi, Ibn al-Haitham, ‘Ali Ibn ‘Isa al-Ghazali, al-zarqab, Omar Khayyam. A magnificent array of names which it would not be difficult to extend. If anyone tells you that the Middle Ages were scientifically sterile, just quote these men to him, all of whom flourished within a short period, 750 to 1100 A.D.”
c. Carra de Vaux. “Arithmetic and algebra also flourished alongside of astronomy. This was the period of the cerebrated al-Khwarizmi whose name, corrupted by the Latin writers of the West, gave us, it so believed, the term Algorism (sometimes written Algorithm) .”
d. Silberberg. “Anyhow it is astonishing enough that the entire botanical literature of antiquity furnishes us only two parallels to our book (of ad-Dinawari, died 895 C.E.). How was it that the Muslim people could, during so early a period of its literary life, attain the level of the people of such a genius as the Hellenic one, and even surpass it in this respect? [Ad-Dinari wrote ‘Kitab an-Nabat’ (Encyclopaedia Botanica) in six thick volumes. It was written before any translation of Greek works into Arabic “.
e. Joseph Hell . “In the domain of trigonometry, the theory of Sine, Cosine and tangent is an heirloom of the Arabs. The brilliant epochs of Peurbach, of Regiomontanus, of Copernicus, cannot be recalled without reminding us of the fundamental and preparatory labour of the Arab Mathematician (Al-Battani, 858-929 A.D.).”






Understanding Brain Drain


15. Brain Drain Defined. It can be defined as an emigration of students who do not return home after training. To a lesser (though growing) extent, it is “highly-qualified people leaving their home-country after finishing their education” . The exodus of educated people has become the epitome of wasted resources for advanced countries. Developing countries are at special risk because they lose highly skilled individuals. The migration of students from poor countries is now a long-term trend that educational improvements in the countries-of-origin have not yet managed to alter.


16. Statistical Analysis. One of the main problems of analyzing brain-drains is the lack of data. There are many gaps. It is hard to say who the migrants are. There are no statistical tools and the flow of people is little understood. The only overall figures available are those of UNESCO for students, along with a few country-of-origin studies which do not include any country-comparative figures. Ironically, there is no separate data available on the magnitude of brain drain in the Muslim World.


17. Historical Perspective. The world saw the brain drain phenomenon in Europe, where many scientists and scholars left their insecure environments to live in the United States. The same scientists helped the host country in dominating the world during and after the World War II. Thus, the nation that produced excellent brains suffered where as another benefited merely by exploiting the opportunities available with her due to good governance and social values.


18. Cost Effects. Immigration out of and in to a country has its cost effects. These costs run in millions and billions. The cost of investment in postsecondary education, loss of tax revenue and the costs of settlement, language training and skills upgrading are distributed among the host countries and countries of origin. The countries of origin loose more due to weaker economic and social infrastructure.
Reasons Leading to Brain Drain


19. Quality of Education. One of the main reasons is the perceived value, career-wise, of a diploma obtained in a rich country. Looking at the issue of development in science and technology areas, we see that industrial and technological development largely depends on financial and economic stability and growth. The economic stability depends on social and political environment.


20. Education Used as an Industry. Higher education has become a lucrative and competitive market in the rich countries, where economic and financial considerations sometimes clash with academic and human ones. In this market, universities are behaving these days according to how many foreign students they can take. Due to the lack of educational institutions with equivalent facilities and repute, Muslim youth with the resources to pursue higher education prefer to spend billions for getting the quality education from the West. During their stay in Western countries they are introduced to and attracted by the Western social values and lifestyle that in turn motivates them in to staying there on completion of their education.
21. Socio-Political Stability. Social and political stability in any society depends on the degree of social values, justice and supremacy of law and order. These are all inter-related and inter-dependent factors. Hence, the bottom-line is, a country cannot succeed in any sector without achieving the prerequisites and without setting her priorities for the rest of the sectors. The progress can not be started from the middle but needs a strong base to start working on. Strong nations started from scratch and though it took time for them to reach where they are today, the resulting prosperity and strength are firm and less likely to be affected by minor irritants.


22. Pursuit of Better Opportunities. This quest for opportunity is part of the human experience. It is part of culture and sociology. It is a reality enshrined in the spirit of man that he is a mobile, migratory creature. He moves, when there is no grass on the prairie, to a greener pasture.


23. Immigration Policies of the Western Countries. The Western countries want immigrants presumably, to replenish an aging and diminishing population in order to sustain economic growth. They want economic growth to retain a competitive edge in the global economy. They want to retain this edge because they want to maintain a high standard of living for their population.
a. Preferences. They “prefer the scientists and engineers with further emphasis on research and development activities” . These sectors are indeed considered as the new major source of wealth and indicate the stage at which a particular society has reached.
b. Environments. The expatriate scientists and engineers work in an environment, which is far better than the one of their peers in the country of origin. They indeed have access to funding, technical support, equipment, scientific networks, experimental conditions, and many other resources, which are much more limited at home.


24. Globalization and the Movement of Intellectual Capital and Skills. In the age of globalization and new information technologies that facilitate the rapid transfer of ideas and money, a global concept of intellectual capital is emerging. An international community is developing that connects people based on shared interests and values, with less concern for where ideas are generated. In this era of competitiveness, companies are after the best and the brightest ideas and people regardless of where they come from.





25. Portraying Islam as a medieval religion today is continuation of an extensive campaign to weaken the Muslim’s commitment and attachment to Islam. This campaign started when the light of Islam was still being spread in Europe. After many failed attempts to check the advance of Islam, the enemies set out to investigate carefully for more devious and long lasting. They concluded that the strength of Muslims stemmed from their religion and belief. They set out to change their understanding and application of the Shariah and to turn the great principles in Islam from active to passive and uninspiring elements.
26. Intellectual Incursions. It was through process of introducing (under the guise of logic and common sense) certain philosophical concepts that led to much controversy. The results were disastrous for Muslims with emergence of sects and defeats in the wars against Christian crusaders. The intellectual onslaught was at its height during the 17th century. Slow but steady weakening of Muslims continued till they were at the mercy of the westerns at the end of the 18th century resulting in colonialism. During the colonial rule, Muslims were deliberately prevented from progress and their educational system was systematically devastated. Muslims saw colonialists grab their property and resources, degrading their character and ridicule their religion.


27. After the Second World War several independent Muslim states appeared on the map of the world, and it seemed that the Muslims would soon take strides leading to a fresh efflorescence of its culture and civilization. But in the post-independence period, one could clearly see dearth of creative energy and lack of intellectual courage. This led many to conclude that perhaps the Islam as a religion was the basic cause of this decay. This misrepresentation of Islam that has found new height after the September 11 can be summarized in the following paragraphs:-
a. Extremism. Extremism and unaccommodating attitude towards other religions or communities as taught in the madrassas and so called Islamic organizations in countries like Yemen, Sudan, Algeria, Afghanistan etc present a wrong image of Islam to the world. The Islamic world faces a monolithic wall of suspicion and fear regarding the alleged nature of Islamic resurgence and activism, which is distorted as fundamentalism and terrorism. This is partly due to disinformation campaign fostered world wide against Islam and partly due to our own misinterpretation of Islam.
b. Islam and Muslims in the Media. Media coverage of Islam is on the rise. The tone and substance of such coverage, however, leaves many Muslims concerned about the negative image that is being relayed to Western public. However, it is important to note that, in almost all cases, negative coverage takes the form of sensational reporting on “exotic or violent behavioural attributes of individuals or groups of individuals” . Objective analyses are usually lacking and whenever Islam’s teachings and dictates are cited, in order to give the appearance of objectivity, they are taken out of context. The real damage is done when the writer, with superficial and sometimes biased notion of Islam, claims authority and seeks justification through misguided reading or interpretation of Quran or Hadith.
c. Generalising Islamic Label. At present the major flash points happen to be in Muslim majority areas. The violence in Muslim countries is mostly related to internal problems; their struggles are not over any religious issue. In Dagestan, Grozny, and Kashmir, the fighters are being called Muslim rebels though their cause is not just based on religion. In Afghanistan in-groups struggle for control of the country has nothing to do with Islam; they fight among themselves because they are hostile to one another but still, they are portrayed as fighters for Islam.
d. Western Culture/Values. The fallacy of the west regarding their own civilization as the yardstick to judge the whole world has led them to believe anything not western to be backward.
e. Civilisation Clash. In the words of Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University, “the next world war, if there is one, will be a war between civilisations ”. He maintains that differences among civilizations are basic, involving history, language, culture, tradition and, most importantly, religion. The united efforts of other civilisations are likely to be directed in abolishing Islam as a religion and civilisation.
f. Backwardness. Muslim world as a whole suffers from lack of development and backwardness, particularly in the fields of Industry, management and science. Despite their vast natural wealth, talent and 30-50 years of independence many Muslim countries could not progress at the desired pace. Though these conditions are after effects of the colonial misrule, the results are wrongly related by the West to the religion itself.






28. Will to Struggle. The vibrant societies have a will to live and struggle for a better place in the world. Choosing the right direction with appropriate methodology to direct the struggle is important. Being a Muslim the only way to solve our problems and also to achieve progress is to revive our true faith in Islam, to reduce our dependence on the West. We should concentrate our efforts on implementing the complete code of Islam in every walk of life, and in all spheres of social life. So we can say with conviction that the survival of Muslims lies in their religion itself and not in denying its universal appeal.


29. Role of Organisations. As already mentioned, most of the Muslim world organisations are regional interest oriented. Organisation of Islamic Conference is also doing little in the larger interest of the Ummah. Most of its declarations of intent are a mere lip service. There is a need to forge the political will to accelerate economic cooperation, which is a sine qua non for establishing mutuality of interests.


30. Role of Media. Media has played a negative role in portraying Islam as a medieval religion. It can also be used to help create understanding between Islam and the West. The effort needs to come from both sides.
a. Media need to take a more balanced and more understanding position.
b. More Muslims need to be visible in the Western media - in films, on discussion programmes, on the radio and TV and so on. It would allow them to project their point of view as well as to counter their exotic and alien image.
c. Major problems that cause so much anger and distress among Muslims need to be addressed: those of the Bosnians in Europe, the Palestinians in the Middle East and the Kashmiris in South Asia


31. The Concept of Twin Cities and Universities. Sharing and transferring of information among Muslim countries is possible through collaboration of universities and establishing the concept of twin cities. The same concept is working advantageously in the western world as well.


32. Sponsorship of Students and Scientists. Promising Muslim students should be recognised and sponsored by governments to provide them high quality education in affiliated universities round the Muslim world. These students will also be indoctrinated to serve their nation rather than falling for a dreamy world away from their home.


33. Strengthening the Industrial Base. Till the time Muslims have their own strong industrial base, their security concerns, poverty and over dependence on the West will continue. Serious efforts must be made to undertake joint industrial ventures. Technical expertise must be canalised from within the Islamic countries. This will help alleviate poverty and ensure best utilisation of technical knowledge.


34. Possible Solutions to the Brain Drain Problem. The national and international policies until the late 1980s focused on preventing or regulating flow of skills. Later the flow of skills was accepted as a norm and organising the skill abroad was added as a new option. The policies applied in the Muslim countries-of-origin to tackle the brain-drain should involve following two options:-
a. Recuperating people (persuading individuals to return home i.e. Brain Gain)
b. Recuperating skills (organising those abroad into a network i.e. Diaspora Option).
c. Conditions. There are definitely no quick fixes to stop brain drains because success depends very much indeed on the level of economic, scientific and technological development of each country and on political leaders taking a long-term view of the whole thing. These conditions are so far absent in most of the Muslim countries. The return-home policies are very long-term operations that can only work when the country-of-origin can offer prospective returnees satisfactory career conditions in their field. This supposes a high level of development. The solutions can only work under certain conditions.
(1) First, there has to be a sizeable scientific and technical or industrial community in the country-of-origin.
(2) There has to be long-term political backing for the idea.
(3) Finally, the administrative and financial resources to organise such networks and keep them going must be available.


35. Development of Socio-Cognitive Communities. There are numerous examples of talented scientists or engineers being misused or underutilised when they go back to their country of origin. Their abilities are disconnected from what used to make them powerful. This leads to an approach emphasizing connectivity and which departs from the traditional brain drain assumptions.


36. Brain Gain. For the last two decades, the conception about the migration of skills has evolved, putting stronger emphasis on brain gain, which is based on the idea that the expatriate skilled population may be considered as a potential asset instead of a definite loss. The scientists and engineers abroad appear as human resources educated, trained through professional practice, and employed in much better conditions than those the country of origin could have provided to them. If such a country is able to use these resources largely shaped through others’ investments, it would then gain a lot.
37. The Diaspora Option. The diaspora option is more recent and proceeds from a different strategy. It takes for granted that many of the expatriates are not likely to return. They have often settled abroad and built their professional as well as their personal life there. However, they may still be very concerned with the development of their country of origin, because of cultural, family or other ties. The objective, then, is to create the links through which they could effectively and productively be connected to its development, without any physical, temporary or permanent, return.


38. Advantages of the Diaspora Option.
a. It does not rely on a prior infrastructural massive investment.
b. Through the expatriates, the country may have access not only to their individual embodied knowledge but also to the socio-professional networks in which they are inserted overseas.
c. It is quite an extensive version of a connectivity approach. This is what is at stake in such initiatives around the world today.
d. The time thus gained will reduce the effects of present precarious situation gradually.


39. These networks need to emphasise on knowledge as well to gain more out of the experience of the Muslim scientists abroad. These networks should have better meaning and practicable measures added to their charter of duties that are listed below:-
a. Student/Scholarly Networks. They should facilitate studies abroad and/or reintegration into the highly qualified labour at home market afterwards. They need to expand the scope in terms of activities and contributions to the country of origin.
b. Local Associations of Skilled Expatriates. Groups of highly skilled professionals who should meet regularly on both a professional and social level. The aim is to promote the professional interests of members as well as to socialise on a more personal level.
c. Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) Programme. The Muslim countries need to set up permanent structures to tap their expatriate human resources through the TOKTEN programme more systematically. The list of databases of people, organised by area for example, can constitute embryos of real networks.
d. Developing Intellectual/Scientific Diaspora Networks. Their aim should be to make use of the highly skilled expatriate pool of their countries to contribute to the development process of the home country.


40. Database. Technically, through the databases or information system of diaspora network, it focuses on the information, which is useful, especially for building partnerships.


41. Muslims need to regain their past glory through an organised and consistent methodology. Only then the West will feel encouraged to trust the Muslims in spite of hatred and mistrust sown by their forefathers over a long period. The onus of proving the authenticity and credibility of Islam as a modern religion lies with the Muslims. Instead of suffering from inferiority complex and giving in to the harsh realities of the present time, Muslims must to trust their capabilities to master their destiny as their predecessors did under far worse conditions. Importance of education and morals are ordained for the Muslims and the rewards are far reaching for the coming generations. Inaction in this aspect will only strengthen the misconceptions of non-Muslims about Islam.


42. It is obvious that no religion with 14 centuries of history can be fairly reduced to the one-line analysis of bigotry, be it past or present. It is therefore time for the people of vision, both Muslim and Christian, to transcend their positions and aim to build bridges towards each other. We need to understand one another dispassionately, with a view to living together as good neighbours.


43. The glorious past of Islam needs to be recalled with pride by all Muslims to derive faith from the religion. If this reminiscence is not renewed and revived often, it is likely to face the danger of receding into oblivion.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, August 25th, 2007 at 11:42 am and is filed under ReligioN.

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