Renaissance may be defined as the renewal, resurgence, revival or rebirth of a society or a nation. In this context, Islamic renaissance does not mean only the resurgence but also the scientific and intellectual growth of Muslim Ummah. Only this can help the Ummah from shedding their sense of inferiority in today's intellectually (scientifically) advanced society.
Muslims cannot fulfil their mandate as Allah's representatives on earth (Quran 2:30) without acquiring knowledge of Allah's earth.
Christianity came out from the dark ages only due to European Renaissance, which was actually a revolution based on science and technology. It also saw the end of priesthood and supremacy of the church in worldly affairs. It is because of the renaissance that Christianity took the path of rationalism, economic prosperity, scientific temper and freedom of speech.
In contrast, Muslims of middle ages abandoned all these paths after following them for about a thousand years during golden period of their history.
Muslims can only regain past glory, if they adopt renaissance similar to European renaissance, more vigorously and faster than done by Europe. But before this is done Muslims have to condemn and reject forces of extremism and promote true Islamic values of tolerance and moderation.
Life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the best and ideal example for the Muslims to follow his dictates for tolerance, compassion and love. The most positive aspect of European renaissance/Western civilisation was that it was constantly evolving and providing incentives to create, develops and makes progress in every walk of life. These were the main features of Islamic society till sixteenth century when the tables turned and Europe followed what Muslims practiced in the past but abandoned.
Dr Hans Koechler (University of Innsbruck/Austria) in his article on Christian-Muslim Relation has rightly stated, "It is a historical fact that the shaping of a genuine European intellectual life in the middle ages was the result of the flourishing Islamic civilisation in Spain…. Europe's encounter with Islamic civilisation enabled it to develop its skills in all scholarly and scientific fields". (seminar, Kuala Lumpur, 1999).
Mr BA Mahmud is right when he says "There is no denying the fact that the Muslim communities will have to make all out efforts for acquisition of knowledge in science and technology, the gap with developed world is very wide, and the task is uphill and there is no way out except through hard work and concerted and dedicated efforts."
Today the Muslim world is facing the most critical era of its history. Poverty, illiteracy, irrational behaviour, sectarian prejudices and indifference to scientific pursuit are the main ingredients of the declining Islamic society. Add to this, the extremists have hijacked religion.
Recent meetings of Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) have repeatedly appealed to Muslim Ummah to "promote tolerance and reject extremism". What Muslims need today is not the traditional Islam but Islam based on the ecstatic mysticism of universal love on one hand and on the other scientific approach to worldly problems.
In the well known Islamabad Declaration of OIC, it's standing committee called upon all Muslims, men and women, "to acquire and assimilate scientific knowledge to re-kindle the flame of inquiry and innovation (Ijtihad) in the Muslim Ummah and to harness science and technology for the good of mankind, within the value framework of Islam "The conference urged 'all Muslims to work for the transformation of the Ummah into an enlightened, scientifically creative and innovative society' and stated that 'scientific renaissance constitutes an essential element in Islamic resurgence'".
In the opinion of the said standing committee "the revival of science in the Muslim world rests on the building up of efficient national S&T systems and the unity, solidarity and cooperation among Islamic countries".
The OIC appealed to Islamic countries to develop the educational, cultural, political and social climate congenial to scientific activity and identify, train and utilise gifted and creative individuals for scientific work by providing them with an environment conducive to freedom of thought and initiative.
This Islamabad Declaration articulates the commitment of the OIC member states for achieving modernisation, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, security and harmonious development through a sustained and extensive effort in science and technology.
The appeal of OIC does not holds good only to Islamic countries but also to all groups of people and individual Muslims too.
It is very sad that presently quest of knowledge receives a very low priority in Muslim countries.
Under the Islamic renaissance, the vision and mission of Sir Syed has to be followed and adopted. Aligarh Movement for the propagation of science and scientific temper has to be transformed into the Islamic fikr (thought) throughout the Islamic world.
Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IESCO) has recently urged all the Muslim countries to allocate higher percentage of their Gross Domestic Product for Research and Development in their respective countries. Presently it is only 0.1 per cent, which should be raised to 3 per cent, as is the practice in the west.
There is only one Islam i.e. Islam for peace and not, as propagated by the west, radical Islam, fundamentalist Islam or militant Islam. Islam is portrayed in the west as the impediment for the development of science and technology and also the hurdle for the spread of democratic values. Islam is also projected as the threat for peace. This is far from the truth. In fact Islam demands Muslims to acquire knowledge and newer ideas for reforming the society.
Islamic history till the sixteenth century AD is the example for this basic truth.
Yes, it is Almiyah (tragedy) that Muslims themselves have forgotten Quranic and prophetic injunctions about acquiring knowledge.
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