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by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
 Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
 7102 W. Shefford Lane
 Louisville, KY 40242-6462, U.S.A.
 Website:  http://WWW.IRFI.ORG


One of the missions of the Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. is to accelerate the momentum to achieve Islamic Renaissance.  To me Islamic Renaissance means the intellectual growth of the Muslim Ummah.  Intellect is the greatest gift of Allah (SWT) to mankind.  Intellect grows through thinking or Tafkir.  There are several Ayath in the Qur'an, which mention the word "Yatafakkaroon".  We are interested to encourage young Muslims to learn and apply research methodology to interpret the Qur'an and Hadith in the light of modern knowledge. To conduct essay writing competitions to the Muslim youth to make them aware of our rich Heritage.  Muslims in the western world as well as Muslims in the Muslim lands ruled by colonial powers have been deprived of the knowledge of the achievements of our ancestors. Gravitation, Evolution, spherical trigonometry, blood circulation and thousands of discoveries in the areas of science, technology and medicine were known to our ancestors at least 800 years before they were re-discovered by the Westerners. During the golden age of Islamic civilization, Europe was in the dark and undeveloped.  The orientalists have acknowledged that it is the Muslims and their achievements in all the branches of knowledge that paved the way to European Renaissance.  Our model for Islamic Renaissance is not the European Renaissance but the golden age of Islamic Civilization.


The decline of Islamic Civilization started with the loss of Muslim Spain or Andalusia in 1492.  Earlier there were setbacks due to external attacks such as the Crusades and the Mongol invasion during the eleventh and thirteenth century.  However a major cause of this decline is Obscurantism.  The Western society advanced in sciences and technology when they rebelled against their religion.  On the other hand, the Muslims fell down from their illustrious achievements in science and technology when they moved away from the Noble Qur'an.


The first word revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was "IQRA" which means to read. One must remember that the first word revealed was not "ALLAH", "Rasool", "Salaat",  "Siyaam", "Zakat",  or "Hajj."  Both the Qur'an and the Hadith have laid great emphasis on Education.  However, today the Muslim Ummah is 1.3 to 1.5 billion,  but unfortunately the literacy rate is between 25 and 35 percent,  and among rural women it is only 2 percent.


The highest literacy rate is 92 percent among the Muslims of Kerala State in India.  Ibn Khaldun said 700 years ago that a nation that does not respect Education will not make progress.  Today education is a "must" for the survival of Muslims as Muslims. Investment in education is the best investment.  The hallmark of any civilization is its intellectual achievement.  Without education there can be no intellectual achievement.  The Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. supports all educational institutions and organizations.  Intellectual freedom is the bedrock of intellectual growth.  Alhamdulillah, there are over 60 Muslim countries.  But how many countries promote intellectual freedom?  The answer is ZERO.  The Islamic Research Foundation International publishes "Aalim", a quarterly. The uniqueness of this publication is its motto that says, "stimulating intellectual growth through differing viewpoints."


Poverty is the greatest enemy of mankind.  Vast majority of the Muslim Ummah is in this state.  Poverty killed more than 20 million people in 1993, says the World Health Organization (WHO).  These people died of infectious diseases-malaria and tuberculosis, or from prenatal, neonatal and maternal causes, all consequences of poverty in the form of poor sanitation, lack of clean water and malnutrition.  Impoverished conditions also contributed to the deaths of 12.2 million children less than 5 years old in 1993.  Of 6 billion people in the world, half lack access to the essential drugs, more than one fifth live-in extreme poverty, and alsmost one third of all children are malnourished.  These are shocking figures!  Let us reflect-honestly and realistically. 


Our  ancestors established an integrated society by integrating religion, science, politics and administration - all inspired by the same Islamic ideal-the Islamic ideal of Balance and Compassion-Adl and Ihsan (justice and good).  There is a need to achieve a balance between Islam and modernity through Ijtehad (creative interpretation), the un-utilized methodology and foundation of our Shari'ah, after the Qur'an and Hadith.  We need to rebuild our Educational System, Human Rights, Law and Order, Entitlements of women and minorities and to close the gap between the rich and the poor.


It is suicidal or will result in enslavement if Muslims do not utilize modern science and technology.  Muslims should adapt to modernity.  Islam is not against modernity.  This neglect of modernity resulted in the colonization of Muslim Lands.  For example in the 19th century (1860s) Imam Shamil of Chechnya fought with swords and spears whereas the Russians fought with machine guns and artillery imported from Europe.  Russians defeated Imam Shamil and annihilated his army and the whole Central Asian Muslim Republics.  Like Tipu Sultan of Mysore, India, Imam Shamil stood alone, Muslims never helped him.  When Shamil was on his way to perform the "Hajj" in Arabia, the Ottoman Sultan offered him his right hand to shake, Imam Shamil, in turn, put out his left hand.  "When I needed you in my fight against the Russians and I stretched out the right hand you offered me nothing" he said.  100,000 British controlled and ruled over 300 million people in India. Through modernity, 5 million Jews effectively kept at bay 200 million Arabs.


In the last 150 years people like Imam Muhammad Abduh, Jamaluddin Afghani, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Mohammad Iqbal and others tried to uplift the Muslim Ummah and emphasized the importance of modernity. We must continue their mission and improve the quality of life of the Muslim Ummah.  We cannot solely depend on the Muslim rulers and governments.  This movement should start from the grass roots.  Ibn Khaldun predicted that when the Rulers become corrupt, then they will be swiped out from the forces that come from the rural areas.  The Iranian revolution is a good example of this.  We must start our revolution with our dedication to Free Thinking, Education, Objectivity, Critical Thinking, Freedom of Expression, Courage to seek proof, Courage to challenge falsehood and corruption.


Let us solve the problem of celebration of Eid days and the sighting of the Hilal through Critical thinking and critical analysis.  Let us not become a laughing stock in the eyes of non-Muslims.  Let us aim to establish high quality educational institutions including Universities with all the disciplines and faculties catering to the spiritual, physical and intellectual needs of Muslim. "DON'T FIND FAULT,  FIND  A  REMEDY."

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