Book Review: Muslim Intellectual Deficit (Reasons and Remedies)

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Abid Qayoom Mir

Islam has always laid stress on the acquisition and extension of knowledge. Numerous Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions highlight the importance of learning and knowledge. The very first Revelation also highlights its importance, and declaring the acquisition of knowledge, by the Prophet (PBUH), as obligatory upon every male and female, adds to its emphasis. This process of imparting knowledge had been started during the Prophetic era. There are hundreds of examples, which reveal that the Prophet (PBUH) encouraged the acquisition of Knowledge. After the Prophet (PBUH), the successors (commonly known as Khulafa-i-Rashidin) carried on this legacy faithfully and successfully. After them, all Umayyad and Abbasid rulers were found great patrons of literature and learning. Those rulers are not much famous for their conquests, as compared to their achievements in commerce, arts, science and architecture.
There is plenty of literature available on this Muslim Intellectual ascendancy/dominance in contrast to its decline. The present book, under review, is an attempt by Dr. Tauseef Ahmad Parray (Assistantr Prof. GDC Pulwama) to highlight the actual reasons behind Muslim intellectual decline. The author claims that, this book is an outcome of his those write ups which were published in ‘Kashmir Reader’ entitled“Islam on Knowledge and Muslims Contribution in Past and Present Grim Scenario” in 2017, which were highly appreciated by his friends and colleagues and encouraged him to write a detailed book on the theme “Muslim Intellectual Deficit: Reasons and Remedies (p.11-12). The title of this book itself suggests that there must had been a rise of Muslim intellectualism in the past, so author has attempted to know “what & where went wrong” (p.11) which lead us to downfall.
The book consists of 10 chapters, revolving around an assessment of ‘Muslim Intellectual Deficit’. The volume is preceded by a Foreword (p.7-9) by Muhammad Razi ul Islam Nadvi (Secretary, Tasneefi Academy, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind), which is followed by a brief Preface (p.11-14) written by the author himself and ends with the bibliography of the sources consulted and cited by the author.

Publisher: IdaraMatbu‘at-e-Talaba, J&K
Author: Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray
Pages: 109
Price: 150

In its opening chapters, Introduction” and Islamic Concept of Knowledge (iilm) respectively, the author has mentioned and explained very brilliantly those Quranic terms and verses which highlights both importance of the Holy Quran among Muslims and its invitation to understand universe (cosmos) and things existing in it. He states that many names of the Quran such as Kitab/ the Book; Furqan/ the Standard; Dhikr/ the Reminder; Hikmah/ the Wisdom; Huda/ the Guidance and Nur/ the Light serve as clues and suggestions for reading the Quran in certain ways (p.18). In the second chapter, presenting an overview of an Islamic concept of knowledge, the author has mentioned various Quranic terms and verses relating to the knowledge in its original form or other forms of the term Knowledge. The author is of the opinion that an ultimate goal of acquaintance of knowledge is to know the reality and the greatest reality is the existence of Allah (pp. 21.22). Instead of Prophetic Traditions (ahadith), the author has focused more on the quotations of both Muslim and Non- Muslim scholars regarding the concept of knowledge in Islam. There are hundreds of Prophetic Traditions which highlight more brilliantly the importance and methods of acquiring knowledge. Dr. Tauseef should have, at least, mentioned some of these ahadith, highlighting the importance of the knowledge in the Islam. The author on behalf of Mohammad Hashim Kamali (Based in Malaysia), claims that, “Approximately 750 verses, or nearly one-eighth of the Quran, exhort the readers to study nature, history, the Quran itself and humanity at large”. (p. 23).
The good professor claims that those Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions motivated and stimulated Muslim scholars to the extent that they contributed in all subjects and all areas covering all fields of life (p. 27). In the chapter, “Muslim Intellectual Contribution in `the Golden Age`”, the author calls rise of Abbasids a “revolution in the history of Islam”, and their early phase a “Golden Age” (p. 27). This chapter highlights brilliantly the role of Abbasid and Umayyads rulers in the promotion of knowledge and education, but here author , the author fails to mention about Fatimid rulers who were also found patrons of knowledge and education. In sum, this was the period when Muslim scholars, scientists and philosophers; ‘directed’ human minds by the “might of their pen”.
The following chapers: “What went wrong & where”, “Challenges to the Muslim World in the Post Colonial Era (1950 onwards”), “The other Side of the Coin”, revolves around “What went wrong and where”, which became responsible for the intellectual decay in the Muslim world. Making history as a base (p. 32) author highlights some reasons, which are – , “Fall of Baghdad (in 1958CE)”,” Down fall of Muslim rule in Spain (in 1492CE)”, “closing of the gates of ijtihad” (pp. 30-31), “Loss of Political power” (p. 33), “division and bifurcation of knowledge into religious and worldly sciences” (p. 34) and according to the author, knowledge was for the first time limited by the ‘Nizamiyah Madrasa’ (p. 33-34).
Dr. Tauseef also claims that such division of knowledge into religious and worldly sciences is not found neither in the Quran or Prophetic Traditions (p. 37). Some other reasons for the ‘Muslim Lethargy’ towards science and technology were- Debate on ‘reason and revelation relation’,‘Limitations on reasoning’, ‘Rationality’ and also bondage on ‘Freedom of expression’, which according to the author, came into field after ‘closing of the gates of ijtihad’ and the total dependence on ‘Taqlid’ (p. 40-41). The author, on the basis of Ismail Raji al-Faruqi (a Palestinian-American Scholar) claims that ‘Separation of Thought from Action’ (p. 41).Occupation, Colonization, and Fragmentation of the Muslim world by Colonizers and European Imperialists were some other main reasons behind ‘Muslim Intellectual Deficit’. He adds that literature produced by Muslim scholars (Modernists) during Colonization period was either ‘reactionary’, ‘responsive’, in ‘rebuttal’ to the west or in ‘defending Islam’ and was revolving around the theme of compatibility of ‘Islam and Modernity’ (p. 43).
While discussing ‘Challenges to the Muslim World in the Post Colonial Era (1950 onwards)’ , the author claims that after the colonialism was over and Muslim world was set free, Muslim countries only copied ‘western style’ and ‘academic infrastructure’ but failed to adopt their ‘objectivity’ and ‘methodology’ (p. 47), which lead to the situation that, Muslims could only ‘brought’ and failed to ‘create’ in the field of science and technology.
Presenting “The other Side of the Coin” ,he has brilliantly and scholarly explained the other reason, which lead Muslims to decline, which includes, disunity among Muslims, lack of suitable research and academic platforms, failure in the utilization of resources and funds for education, less wages paid to the Muslim scientists, more loyalty and inclination towards ‘politico-religious’ organizations and ideologies instead of Ummah etc (pp. 50-55).
The next chapter presents “Some Exemplary Research Institutions/Centres of Muslims” which makes this book more informative and helpful. In this chapter, author has provided detailed list of few reputed research institutes/ centres located in the West and Muslim world along with their aims and objectives with an intention to stimulate those sensitive Muslim minds and souls, who have strived and are striving for the betterment of Muslim Ummah; religiously, spiritually and intellectually, so that they could see the possibilities of making their efforts to establish a research Centres in our society on similar lines.
In its last chapter “Remedies, Solutions & the (Possible) Way Out”, the author has presented what he calls as “6-point Remedial Formula” (p. 98), which the Muslim world (generally) and our society (particularly) needs to adopt to overcome from this ‘grim’ and ‘unpleasant’ scenario. In sum, the remedy and possible way out is only to learn lessons from past legacy, give a re-thought on ‘what went wrong and where, and to take steps for a ‘radical reform’ (p. 101).
Unfortunately, the ‘Idara Matbu‘at-e-Talaba, J&K’ (publishing house of Islami-i-Jamiat Talaba J&K) has ruined its beauty and attraction by using photo-paper for its print, printing images and logos in black and white and there much irregularity in page margins. All in all, the author has brilliantly and scholarly has done justice to the title of the book, its theme and contentt

(The reviewer has done Masters in Islamic Studies from Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora and can be reached at: