Saturday, April 23, 2005


"There once was a civilization that was the greatest in the world. It was able to create continental super-state that streched from ocean to ocean and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.

One of its languages became the universal language of a large part of the world and the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization's commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.

And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity and its mathematicians created algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers and the creation of encryption. Its physicians examined the human body and found new cures for disease, whilst its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the starts, and paved the way for space travel and exploration. Its writers created thousands of stories -- stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.

When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them and kept them alive. When the censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive and passed it on to others.

While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I'm talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and such enlightened rulers as Sulayman the Magnificent.

Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth, and leaders like Sulayman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.

Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population, which included Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions.

This kind of enlightened leadership that nurtured culture, sustainibility, diversity and courage led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.

In these dark and serious times, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership, both bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership"

The preceding descriptions are not the words of a famous muslim scholar, but those of Carly Fiorna, the (former) CEO of Hewlett Packard, ending her speech on "Technology, Business and Our Way of Life: What's Next?" held in Minnesota (September 2001) .....

This book written by Dr. Mustafa Siba`i (1915-1964) is a collection of lectures he delivered on Syrian Radio between September and December 1955. Dr. Mustafa Siba`i was a leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as being a great scholar of Islam. Shaykh Abul-Hasan `Ali Nadwi says about him, "He is an embodiment of steadfastness. His long struggle spread over different fields -- from the battlefield of Palestine to the Syrian Parliament, from the office of the leader [of the Muslm Brotherhood in Syria] to the oceans of compiling, writing and journalism, from the pulpit of speech and da`wah to the idea of establishing the Faculty of Shari`ah at the Syrian University, from debating with atheist orientalists to guiding and directing the Muslim youth... a struggle which was never interrupted and continued to the very last day of his life .....

S.M. Hasan al-Banna
October 2001, London, UK

Dr. Mustafa Siba`i
(translation revised by S.M. Hasan al-Banna)


At 7:11 PM , Blogger vtr14 said...

I am a math teacher and I always discuss the contribution of the Arab world, especially our current number system and algebra itself. The Islamic world was creating and inventing marvelous works while Europe was mired in the Dark Ages. It wasn't until the 12th centurt that Fibonacci brought Arabic Numerals to Europe.

Question: Forgive my ignorance, but how did this empire have commerce with Latin America?


At 2:08 AM , Blogger abli said...

Dear Brother/Sister,

I apologize for the late reply. I am no history buff, so I cannot provide the answer. But I'll try to find out more. By the way, this was the content of a speech by the former Hewlett-Packard CEO.


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