Five hundred years ago, Muslim societies were at the forefront of scientific discoveries, scholarship, and social tolerance. The Arabic language itself contributed many words into English and the Koræn (Qur’an) was studied not only for worship but for universal wisdom. Somewhere along the line, things changed. In “Islamic Golden Age- a Golden Example of Scholarship and Inclusiveness”, Ejaz Naqvi, MD writes:
The Islamic golden age is long gone. We the Muslims need to engage in a collective introspection to figure out what made the past Muslim societies the center of wisdom and knowledge, and why we are no longer the top performers. Have we become exclusivists in our societies? Have we stopped pondering? Have we not misused the Qur’an for our selfish interpretations to suit our needs and pre-set beliefs? Have we not rendered the Qur’an a book to stay in the book shelves to bring ‘barakah’? Have we stopped learning about the great thought leaders of the yesteryears, and instead have latched on to the self-proclaimed “religious scholars”?
Only after serious contemplation can we even think about going back to the golden age of scholarship, wisdom and learning. May be then the Nobel Prize winner distribution will more closely reflect the 22% world population Muslims make.
I pray that in their soul searching, Muslim leaders may rediscover that Islamic philosophy may provide a traditional model or inspiration for an Integrated Society with global reach. Islam’s core belief that culture, politics, and religion ought to be an expression of an underlying spiritual harmony could be a tremendous gift for export in the world.
But I see numerous obstacles in the way, beginning with the need for the religion to internalize a developmental sociology capable of distinguishing between pre-modern, modern, and systemic or meta-systemic (postmodern or integral) forms of the faith. Muslim scholars who rejected modernist/historicist study of their sacred texts or postmodern hermeneutical studies of the Koræn could benefit from investigating Integral approaches to religion that can honor the integrity of their heritage while simultaneously making multi-faceted adjustments using divergent methodologies in order to skillfully advance into the future with Allah.