Science in the Muslim World: A Brief Analysis
By Niaz Ali
According to Aaron Segal, professor of political science at the University of Texas, “by any index, the Muslim world produces a disproportionately small amount of scientific output and much of it relatively low in quality. In numerical terms, forty-one predominantly Muslim countries with about 20 percent of the world’s total population generate less than 5 percent of its science”.
This paragraph is a conclusive one which really reflects current level of research activities for the development of science and technology in the Muslim world. Advancement of the research cannot be linked to a single problem, it is associated with a number of inter related issues from the economy, education system, administrative capabilities of research institutions, interest of the government, international relation and cooperation etc.
These problems are divided into two broad categories;
Issue arise due to external (international) influences
Internal issues within a country
The glorious period of Muslim civilization continued from AD 750 to 1200 when scientific research flourished while the Europeans were in the Dark Age. After this golden age they gradually declined in every field of life especially in science. Reawakening of science started after the post colony era imposed by the western world. Dominance of western powers in the world affair is one of the biggest problems for the advancement of the research in Muslim world.
These powers need weak nation and obeying rulers for the exploitation of the resources from the Muslims. For this purpose they divided Muslim world into several countries (division of Usmania Caliphate, and creation of Israel) and this attempt is continue still (creation of ISIS is may be another attempt for division in Muslim world especially in Arabian Peninsula). Most of the Muslim countries are third world countries and are weak in economy; these are controlled by west dominated institutions like International Monitory Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Banks (ADB).
These western influenced rulers don’t care about public interest they only care of their authorities. Even if someone try to develop his nation sincerely against the interest of dominant powers, these bullying powers don’t hesitate to ousted the government ( example , the Government of Dr. Musaddiq in 1953, Iran) or impose sanctions on Muslim nations (sanctions for the experiment of atomic bomb in 1999 Pakistan and the sanctions on Iran for atomic energy program 2004-continue) to follow their policies.
Another recent observed phenomenon is the rise of Muslim extremism in the form of ISIS, Ashabab, and Taliban. All these extremist groups are directly or indirectly created by the western powers to destabilize the Muslim countries especially the Arab Peninsula which is rich in hydrocarbon resources. The civil war in Syria, Libya and Iraq as well as the gaining of power by occupying large swath of territories by ISIS are the recent examples of interventions from the western world directly or indirectly.
Along with the external factors, unfortunately the Muslim world is facing more severe problems at home. In the words of Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. President Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc “there are no people in the world today who have been as divided as Muslims. They are divided along religious, political, ethnic, cultural, racial, linguistic, and sectarian lines. These divisions extend further into subdivisions. Status, wealth, fame, and fortune have also created social differences among Muslims…………………… these differences and divisions do create physical, emotional, and psychological barriers among us”.
Lack of unity among Muslim world has weakened the whole Muslim Umma and they are the most oppressed, most disrespected, and exploited nations in the world. In addition to this poor economic performance and development has put hurdles in cooperation for the development of research in science. On the one hand misinterpretation of Islam has spread hatred among different sects of Islam while on the other hand fashioned confusion about scientific education, results a large portion of the population who think, science is against Islam.
Conservative values in the Muslim society have significant negative impact for promoting research in science and religion. According to Dr. Perwaiz Houd bhai “The real challenge is not better equipment or faster internet connectivity. Instead, to move ahead in science, Muslims need freedom from dogmatic beliefs and a culture that questions rather than obeys”. Reconciliation of Islamic thoughts and values apart from the conservative value is highly needed for cultivating research culture in the Muslim world.
Majority of the Muslim countries are ruled by Monarchies, military, or less educated politicians, and education & research are not their priorities. For example, Pakistan is controlled by Military, politicians and bureaucrats. This ruling class is not educated to Ph.D level. These decision makers do not provide good policies and opportunities for research due to their back ground education. Education and research is their last priority for this class of Muslim society.
Existence of several education systems is another major issue in the Muslim world and good scientific education is available only for a limited population in the urban areas at school level.
Language is another problem in the Muslim world as most of the scientific literature published first in English, therefore scientific work, need capability in reading, writing, and understanding English language, The Muslims lag in English as most of their first languages are Arabic, Urdu, Persian etc.
Unavailability of funds for research projects in the universities as well as intervention of bureaucracy and politicians in research institution for appointments also affect the quality education as well s the funding for research. These research institutions also lack advance scientific instruments and techniques due to financial constraints and less capability of the faculties. Brain drain is also observed throughout the Muslim world due to lack of opportunities and good rewards in the field of research.
Corruption is another critical issue in the Islamic world which has severely damaged the whole system ultimately affecting the research projects in these countries. Universities are also part of this society and cannot be exempted from this curse.