Islam’s deep traditions of art and science have had a global influence

For people who would like to learn more about Islam, The Conversation is publishing a series of articles, available on our website or as six emails delivered every other day, written by Senior Religion and Ethics Editor Kalpana Jain. Over the past few years she has commissioned dozens of articles on Islam written by academics. These articles draw from that archive and have been checked for accuracy by religion scholars.


In the previous installment of this series, you learned about the different Muslim sects and the interesting ways they mix in the United States. This article will take you through the historical contributions of Islam and its influence on other faiths across geographical regions.

Your understanding of Islam is perhaps incomplete without a deeper appreciation of its cultural and intellectual history. History books in the U.S. can give an incomplete picture about the richness of its past, so many students may fail to appreciate the importance of this history.

Islamic scholars contributed to early developments in astronomy, medicine and mathematics. Their work was crucial to Renaissance scientists who built on some of the existing scholarship.

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For example, the 11th-century astronomer al-Qabisi, one in a line of famous Islamic astronomers, helped formulate a critique of the then-prevalent notion that the Earth was at the center of the universe. As scholar of Middle Eastern studies Stephennie Mulder writes, that model later informed the view of Nicholas Copernicus, a Renaissance astronomer.

Important works of mathematics were written by Islamic scholars, including substantial contributions to algebra and a commentary on the fourth-century B.C. Greek mathematician Euclid that was later translated into Latin. An early description of surgery to remove cataracts was written by Islamic ophthalmologists in the year 1010.

Many of these scholars were based in Mosul in modern-day Iraq, a city that was occupied by the Islamic State from 2014 to 2017. Mosul was a key center on the Silk Road – a network of trade routes – which also contributed to its rich diversity of people and traditions. As Mulder notes, “The city was home to a diverse group of people: Arabs and Kurds, Yazidis, Jews and Christians, Sunnis and Shiites, Sufis and dozens of saints holy to many faiths.”

Black-and-white picture of an ancient building with a tower
The tomb of the Prophet Jonah in 1932, before it was destroyed by the Islamic State in 2014. Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Among the Islamic State’s destruction of architectural sites in Mosul was the tomb of the Prophet Jonah, a figure revered by all three Abrahamic faiths. Jews venerate Jonah as a symbol of repentance. In the Islamic faith, Jonah, also known as Yūnus, is seen to be an exemplary model for human behavior. In the Christian faith, Jonah’s story appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION

Trump is gone, but Muslim federal workers say reforms are still needed

Muslim Americans in Public Service has published a set of 12 recommendations to improve working conditions for Muslims in public service.

(RNS) — Muslim federal employees who say they felt discriminated against under President Trump are advocating for new federal policies to prevent workplace bias, with many backing a new initiative from Muslim Americans in Public Service aimed at getting the Biden administration to adopt measures that reflect the needs of Muslim Americans who work for government agencies.

Earlier this year, President Biden signed Executive Order 14035, launching a “government-wide initiative to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in all parts of the Federal workforce,” according to a White House statement. The Biden administration has also announced policies to root out far-right extremists in the military, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies.

While Trump’s executive order preventing citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States attracted media attention, Muslim federal employees faced various forms of discrimination, harassment and unwarranted investigation from the Trump administration.

“You had people at USAID who publicly hated Muslims. Can you imagine this being tolerated if this was a member of a different minority group?” asked Ahmad Maaty, an economist for the Department of Transportation and chair of Muslim Americans in Public Service, which was founded in response to their treatment. 

An internal State Department report released in 2019 found that the Trump administration had discriminated against a diplomat of Iranian heritage.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

The Taliban’s Ideology Has Surprising Roots In British-Ruled India

DEOBAND, India — Hundreds of young men in crisp white tunics and skullcaps sit cross-legged in classrooms ringed with porticoes, poring over Islamic texts. From a marble minaret above them, a dozen voices wail Quranic verse in unison.

They start and stop in rounds, echoing like a canon across an otherwise scruffy landscape of rickshaws, tea stalls and open sewers.

This is where the Taliban’s ideology was founded. It’s not Afghanistan; nor is it the Middle East. It’s not even a Muslim-majority country. It’s a small town in India about 100 miles north of the capital, New Delhi.

More than 150 years ago, this is where Muslim scholars started a seminary that also became entwined in the politics of that era. The Darul Uloom Deoband seminary, founded in 1866, taught that by returning to the core principles of Islam, Indian Muslims could resist British colonial rule. Less than a decade earlier, the British crown had taken control of India from the East India Company. The previous Mughal — Muslim — rulers had been vanquished.

“The British have taken over. The Muslim glory has faded away. So there comes a kind of state of despondency within the Muslims,” says Luv Puri, a researcher, author and columnist. “Then they decide it’s time to get back the glory of Islam. And let’s start a movement.”Article continues after sponsor messagehttps://faf6a47b647727c5f8432391e98fcca2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The movement they started became known as Deobandi Islam. Adherents later joined Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom struggle. After the partition of India, they fanned out across South Asia and set up seminaries, or madrassas, teaching an austere version of Islam — particularly along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

And that is where they educated their most infamous students: the Taliban.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR

Muslim community grows, matures in New Hampshire following ‘terrifying’ aftermath of 9-11

As news reports fixated on images of crumbling towers and Osama bin Laden 20 years ago, Muslims living in New Hampshire and across the country became the focus — and in some cases, the target of scorn — of their neighbors.

Muslims suffered taunts — “go back to your country” — from motorists as they left the mosque in Manchester, which at the time was hidden away in an office building just across the street from the future police station.

In schools, children endured insults and in some cases assaults from fellow students.

When they left their homes, adults had to weigh whether traditional garments that would identify them, such as a hijab, were worth the risk to their safety.

“It was terrifying,” said Salaam Odeh, a Manchester resident and Muslim activist.

Odeh was the first victim in a hate crime case against Muslims following 9/11, after an apartment neighbor elbowed her while uttering racist slurs. The incident took place about a month after 9/11.

“We were already being mistreated, and then when this happened, people found a reason to bully us and mistreat us even more,” Odeh said.

“A label was put on you. You got the sense of having to explain yourself,” said Sheraz Rashid, who was in the seventh grade in Salem on 9/11.

A software engineer, Rashid is now the secretary of the Islamic Society of New Hampshire, which is building a mosque in Manchester.

Through the struggles, Muslims said they found comfort, too. Odeh said her host family — Vivian McDonald of Manchester and her daughter — doubled down and were very protective.

Rashid said teachers kept an eye on him.

“There was a lot of bad, but also a lot of good,” Rashid said. “People out and said, ‘No one is blaming you.’ A lot of people wanted to learn and understand.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE UNION LEADER (NEW HAMPSHIRE)

‘Those people are not me’

US Muslims reflect on how 9/11 changed their lives and what the future holds for them

By Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 10:53 AM ET, Fri September 10, 2021Watch CNN’s “Shine A Light,” a commercial-free 9/11 20th anniversary tribute, hosted by Jake Tapper and featuring musical performances by Maroon 5, H.E.R., Brad Paisley, and Common on Saturday, September 11 at 8 p.m. ET.(CNN) — Many Muslims in the United States point to September 11, 2001, as the day their relationship with the country changed.Islamophobia had always existed, but the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia seemingly made it worse — much worse.Muslims of all stripes — citizens, immigrants and refugees — faced backlash. Many were ostracized and harassed, some physically assaulted and even killed. Charged rhetoric, successive wars and attacks further inflamed the situation.Feeling condemned for crimes they didn’t commit, some Muslims changed their names and clothing to conceal their identities, while others clung even tighter to their faith. A few became outspoken advocates for the community.Every Muslim in America has a story to tell. Here are some of them.

Ruwa Romman

Ruwa Romman, 28, is a Palestinian American community organizer and policy analyst living in Duluth, Georgia.When the terrorists attacked, she was 8 years old and had just recently immigrated to the US with her parents. But the dream she had of building a new life in America quickly turned into a nightmare.Ruwa Romman and her husband Shahzaib Jiwani. Ruwa Romman and her husband Shahzaib Jiwani.”I remember the hallways and the day seemed darker even though I remember it was sunny outside,” Romman told CNN about her experience in school that day. “I don’t think I fully understood what was happening since I barely spoke English.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN

Muslims, Christians, Jews and others must walk forward together: A 9/11 message

In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it seemed as if we were heading in the right direction as a nation. We became wary of knee-jerk Islamophobia. We began to learn how to mourn and to heal together after the 9/11 tragedy: Jews, Christians, Muslims, members of other faiths and backgrounds. As Americans, we took pride in being one nation.

Now, as we are approaching the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders believe we must march as a nation united, shoulder to shoulder, advancing our common American ideals.

On Jan. 6, 2021, for the first time in our nation’s long proud history, we did not have a peaceful, uneventful transfer of power. Political parties no longer merely disagree about what is best for the country; they vilify one another, country be damned. We treat one another as enemies rather than as fellow citizens. Now we are testing whether our nation can endure. We have begun to hear a war of words on our television screens and other devices every evening.

We must be “dedicated to the great task remaining before us. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.” As did Lincoln, whose words we have just echoed, we three religious leaders call upon us all to rebuild and become better together.

We can still proclaim that we are a nation of immigrants and descendants of the enslaved, alongside the indigenous communities who called this place their home long before we arrived. We can declare that diversity is what makes our nation strong and ever stronger. We can celebrate our differences, rather than protest and exploit them. We call upon all of America to work as one to repair the breach. Yes, we will disagree; but we must also show common purpose to work through these disagreements.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Close to home: how US far-right terror flourished in post-9/11 focus on Islam

The far right and white supremacists are responsible for the vast majority of extremist-related fatalities but only a fraction of counter-terrorism resources are devoted to them

The US government acted quickly after 9/11 to prevent further attacks by Islamic extremists in the US. Billions of dollars were spent on new law enforcement departments and vast powers were granted to agencies to surveil people in the US and abroad as George W Bush announced the war on terror.

But while the FBI, CIA, police and the newly created Department of Homeland Security scoured the country and the world for radicalized Muslims, an existing threat was overlooked – white supremacist extremists already in the US, whose numbers and influence have continued to grow in the last two decades.

Two decades after 9/11, the real threat to the US is our own far rightRead more

In 2020 far-right extremists were responsible for 16 of 17 extremist killings, in the US, according to the Anti-Defamation League, while in 2019, 41 of the 42 extremist killings were linked to the far right.

Between 2009 and 2018 the far right was responsible for 73% of extremist-related fatalities in the US, while rightwing extremists killed more people in 2018 than in any year since 1995, when a bomb planted by an anti-government extremist killed 168 people in a federal building in Oklahoma City.Advertisementhttps://3f63d9bf3f552c2899608c4b07817ce5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Despite the statistical dominance of far-right and white supremacist killings in the US, America’s intelligence agencies have devoted far more resources to the perceived threat from Islamic terror.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Two decades after 9/11, American Muslims still fighting bias

Mistrust of Muslims didn’t start on 9/11, but it dramatically intensified with the attacks.

NEW YORK–As the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks approaches, Shahana Hanif still recalls her confusion over how anyone could look at her, a child, and see a threat.

She remembers when a car passed, the driver’s window rolled down and the man spat an epithet at two little girls wearing their hijabs: “Terrorist!”

It was 2001, mere weeks after the World Trade Centre fell, and ten-year-old Hanif and her younger sister were walking to the local mosque from their Brooklyn home.

“It’s not a nice, kind word. It means violence, it means dangerous. It is meant to shock whoever … is on the receiving end of it,” she says.

But the incident also spurred a determination to speak out for herself and others. She’s become a community organiser and is strongly favoured to win a seat on the New York City Council in an upcoming election.

Like Hanif, other young American Muslims have grown up under the shadow of 9/11. Many have faced hostility, suspicion, questions about their faith, doubts over their Americanness.

They have also found ways to fight back against bias, to organise, to craft nuanced personal narratives about their identities. In the process, they have built bridges and challenged stereotypes.

There is “this sense of being Muslim as a kind of important identity marker, regardless of your relationship with Islam as a faith,” says Eman Abdelhadi, a University of Chicago sociologist.

Mistrust of Muslims didn’t start on 9/11, but it dramatically intensified with the attacks.

America’s diverse Muslim communities were foisted into the spotlight, says Youssef Chouhoud, a political scientist at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University.

“Your sense of who you were was becoming more formed, not just Muslim but American Muslim,” he says. “What distinguished you as an American Muslim? Could you be fully both, or did you have to choose? There was a lot of grappling with what that meant.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ARAB WEEKLY

If There Is Only One God Why Are There So Many Religions? – OpEd

That is a good question that I as a Rabbi have often been asked.

This is my answer. The Qur’an declares that Allah could have made all of us monotheists, a single religious community, but didn’t in order to test our commitment to the religion that each of us have been given by God.

“If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (God’s plan is) to test you in what He has given you: so compete in all virtues as in a race. The goal of you all is to (please) Allah who will show you on the truth of the matters in which you dispute.” (Qur’an 5:48)

This means that religious pluralism is the will of God. Yet for centuries many believers in one God have chided and depreciated each other’s religions, and some believers have even resorted to forced conversions, expulsions and inquisitions. Monotheists all pray to the same God, and all prophets of monotheistic faiths are inspired by the same God.

So how did this intolerance come about, and how can we eliminate religious intolerance from the Abrahamic religions. Greek philosophy, with its requirement that truth must be unchanging and universal, influenced most teachers of sacred scripture during Medieval times to believe that religion was a zero sum game; the more truth I find in your scripture the less truth there is in mine.

Instead of understanding differing texts as complementary, they made them contradictory and declared the other religion’s sacred text to be false.

In 1065 Pope Alexander called for a Crusade against the Moors in Spain. Then in 1073, Pope Gregory issued official proclamations urging Christian princes to recover lands occupied by Muslims in Spain, over which he claimed papal sovereignty on the basis of previous Christian rule and right. These decrees were really the beginning of the Christian Crusades against Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EUROASIA REVIEW

Muslims are a growing presence in U.S., but still face negative views from the public

Muslim woman in a scarf holding American flag during fireworks at night.

An unprecedented amount of public attention focused on Muslim Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. Muslim population has grown in the two decades since, but it is still the case that many Americans know little about Islam or Muslims, and views toward Muslims have become increasingly polarized along political lines.

A chart showing that in the U.S., the Muslim population has been growing steadily

There were about 2.35 million Muslim adults and children living in the United States in 2007 – accounting for 0.8% of the U.S. population – when Pew Research Center began measuring this group’s size, demographic characteristics and views. Since then, growth has been driven primarily by two factors: the continued flow of Muslim immigrants into the U.S., and Muslims’ tendency to have more children than Americans of other faiths.

In 2015, the Center projected that Muslims could number 3.85 million in the U.S. by 2020 – roughly 1.1% of the total population. However, Muslim population growth from immigration may have slowed recently due to changes in federal immigration policy.

The number of Muslim houses of worship in the U.S. also has increased over the last 20 years. A study conducted in 2000 by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership identified 1,209 mosques in the U.S. that year. Their follow-up study in 2011 found that the number of mosques had grown to 2,106, and the 2020 version found 2,769 mosques – more than double the number from two decades earlier.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH CENTER