Sir Syed Ahmad khan Documentary Film by Saeed Ahmed Motivational Speaker-33 minutes-Urdu
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“So what is a preacher to say in times of natural calamities and pandemics? The best they can do is lead a collective prayer and ask the Almighty to give relief to those who are suffering. It is a comforting exercise that is entirely spiritual in nature.
But as often happens, a majority of preachers make it their job to explain the reasons behind natural calamities. Be it an earthquake, a flood or a pandemic, the reasons provided are always centred around obscenity, immodesty, etc. And women remain a constant.”
“Islamic scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi used this concept recently when he was asked to comment on Jamil’s statement. Ghamidi, a respected theologian who, interestingly, has a following within the same socio-economic class that Jamil derives his admirers from, said that it was silly to attribute social causes to natural calamities. He then added that floods, earthquakes and pandemics were all natural occurrences of a system that God has engineered. Scientists too understand these calamities as natural events due to the manner in which the universe operates.
By saying this, Ghamidi was reinvigorating an idea that was first conceptualised by the great 19th-century Muslim scholar Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Khan is often appreciated as being the pioneer of ‘Muslim Modernism’ in South Asia. Like his contemporaries in Egypt, Turkey and Iran, Khan produced scholarship which attempted to find a place for Islam in the context of modernity and science that was sweeping the world at the time. He was of the view that, since Islam was inherently progressive and rational, it was highly compatible with science.
One way he tried to demonstrate this was through a concept he called ’Naicari’. He coined this Urdu term from the English word ’nature’. In an essay for the 2019 Cambridge anthology on Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Professor of History David Lelyveld writes that, to Khan, the universe and our world were run by an ingenious system constructed by God and that natural phenomenon, both benign or otherwise, is part of God’s creation.
To Khan, natural sciences such as biology, physics, chemistry, etc., were the best ways to understand how nature works and, thus, fully appreciate the genius of God’s creation.
In one of his essays on Naicari which was republished in the 1962 anthology Maqalat-i-Sir Syed, Khan writes that anything which contradicts the laws of nature cannot be part of Islam’s sacred texts, because these laws were designed by God. Therefore, according to him, the cause and explanation of a natural phenomenon need to be compatible with the laws of nature set in motion by God.
So what Ghamidi did was indirectly suggest that pandemics and other calamities were part and parcel of how nature works, and nature is what God created. Therefore, an explanation that is outside this context should be taken with a pinch of salt.”