How the Internet can herald in a new golden age of Muslim Renaissance
The Internet has demonstrated what a powerful tool it has become in many, if not all, aspects of our lives. It fosters the advancement of knowledge, it reaches out to millions of people, it paces over national boundaries and makes this world a truly united and compact place. For Muslims, this may spell opportunity to excel in their natural intellectual and cultural prowess by turning it into a universal message and making it heard in every corner of the globe. This is the Golden Age revisited and it may be happening right in front of our eyes.
The Golden Age was a product of the Abbasid era. There were several things that caused it to prosper. One was the location of the Abbasid Caliphate capital Baghdad at the focal intersection of trade routes between Europe and Asia, which made it a venue for the exchange of ideas and cultures between East and West. Second was its political stability eliminating the necessity of wars and feuds which are a burden to your economy and your ‘spare time’, leaving none to exalted pursuits. Scholars flocked to Baghdad to settle within its peaceful and abundant environment. To a large extent this was due to ‘government support’. The Caliph Harun al-Rashid was a fervent promoter of culture, art and science. He set up the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, a scholarly place where knowledge was shared and developed into new breakthrough concepts. The House of Wisdom was a place where ideas could freely circulate, a kind of “medieval Internet”, which contributed greatly to the scientific achievements of the time.
Harun al-Rashid’s effort led to the preservation of ancient knowledge from Greece and Rome which were largely negated in Europe at the time as paganism. There was no such prejudice in Islam, for Allah decreed tolerance to all such religions. “Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans – those who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (2:62) By welcoming and building upon the scientific advances of Ancient Greece and Rome, Abbasid scholars achieved tremendous results for the benefit of all humanity. That was how Ibn Sina produced his Canon of Medicine, Ibn al-Haytham invented the first camera and al-Khwarizmi invented algebra. The knowledge they created permeated all parts of the world. Is it in any way possible to bring back learned minds of the same scope and standing among Muslim men of science? It surely is. The way for this has been paved by the Internet.
The Internet, when used properly, creates exactly the same premises and environment for the spreading and flourishing of knowledge, for revealing the treasury of Muslim scholarly thought for the benefit of the whole world and for advancing Muslim culture in other societies. The tools offered by the Internet to share knowledge are truly unique. They include data collection and access to databases of immense sizes and capacities, online learning, seminars, conferences, instant messaging and communication. They unite the Muslim world and enable it to team up in scientific pursuits casting aside the differences and forging one common excellence in the name of Allah.