Three years ago someone among the current tribe of ulama told him that revealed knowledge, i.e., the scriptures were the only ones that constitute "Ilm" (knowledge) and it was not obligatory for Muslims to gain the uloom e aqqaliyah or the reasoning based sciences. He opposed and challenged him. This spurred him into action and he came up with a treatise running into over 100 pages after scouring references and arguments from over 1500 books ranging from Qur'an, Hadith and countless tomes of science and medieval history. Entitled Islam and Scientific Enterprise, it now awaits publication.
I have known Prof. Syed Akheel Ahmed of Mysore University for a little less than two decades. But this nugget of information came to me only last month, after he had parted with the copies of his latest work to two "publishers" who simply disappeared with the floppies. Currently chairman of the Chemistry department in the university, Akheel is looking forward to having his first book in print, all by himself. An intrepid investigator, Akheel teaches analytical chemistry and specialises in, besides what he teaches, polymer chemistry and environmental management. Akheel argues, and with full justification, that though during the four centuries of apogee of Islamic civilization, i.e., 9th to 12th century AD, Muslim scientists belonged both to Arab and non-Arab stock, the language of scientific communication was Arabic. Growth of scientific knowledge owed itself to the Arabic's capacity to "algebraize" the formulations while Aryan languages tended to "geometrize" them. To a layman like me, the argument makes abundant sense. Anything that tends to algebraize, helps nutshellization of complex and abstract concepts. Thus Arabic came handy for promotion of the concept of what Akheel terms 'exact sciences'. While I join the wait for Akheel's book with our readers, a sidelight of this young professor would be amusing for all of us. He is part of a group in Mysore called Jnanabhoothi engaged in training candidates for all kinds of services, state as well as central. The group was instrumental in saving Rs. 2.30 crore from going down the gutter of corruption. How? 23 of its candidates were selected for the sub inspector's post in Karnataka police. The total number of jobs on offer in sub inspector's category were 144. With the going rate of Rs. 10 lakh each candidate by way of kickbacks to the recruiting officials, the Jnanabhoothi could justifiably lay claim to doing the Mysoreans a favour.
Mir Taqi Mir's poetry has always made fascinating reading for me. He wrote short couplets, used simple words but provided extremely sensitive portrayal almost as fragile as glass. Living in extreme penury in Lucknow of the last century, Mir harboured a robust self, which brooked no begging of favours from the powers that be as was the wont of his contemporary poets. As a result, he hardly ever enjoyed a good meal, let alone life. Misery bleached his life. His poetry holds mirror to the tragedy the life was for him. Creature of the age that he was, and blessed with a daughter, dowry for her marriage was a nagging concern for the penury-stricken poet. Mir gifted her all that could be conceived, as much as his savings and borrowings could buy. Being the lone daughter, parting was painful for both the doting father and the daughter who had been witness to the father's ordeal. So intense was the sorrow that the bride could not take it any more. Off on the palanquin, she sobbed inconsolably and developed hiccups. She breathed her last around midnight on reaching her bridal home in a nearby village. Shocked, the susral folk dispatched a messenger with the sad news to the agonised father. Messenger's knock at the door at the unearthly hour of night sent a chill down Mir's spine. He thought it must be a call to fulfill some vital deficiency. "My Lord, Did I forget anything", he thought and asked the messenger to spell out the demand to be fulfilled the next morning. But to his utter disbelief, the messenger conveyed the sad news of daughter's death. Later arriving at the bridegroom's home, Mir found the body of the bride laid out amid the huge pile of dowry articles. Awash in red bridal clothes, for Mir Taqi Mir, the sorrow filled ambience had a touch of irony.
Victim of greed and grief, Mir Taqi Mir was never the same again. Hope the Mir's tragedy will have enough lessons for the Muslim youth.
Last year when the Meswak toothpaste was launched in the Indian market, the packaging was distinctly Islamic with the old familiar miswak twig dangling over a mughal style grave sandwiched between two minarets and a crescent between them. But the minarets and the crescent soon disappeared from the snug pink boxes of Meswak. Urdu wordings along with English and Hindi however remained.
So also the reference to the Fazail Hadees and other Islamic books that extol the virtues of Miswak. Some of us may apprehend pressure on manufacturers, the Balasra Hygiene Ltd of Mumbai, from certain fundamentalist quarters to discard the Islamic look of the packaging. I am not the one to buy the argument. The manufacturers have acted wisely in order to take the product to a wider clientele beyond Muslims, though the product is mainly inspired by prospects of finding a base clientele among Muslim who are aware of virtues of miswak. This has a simple moral for us: packaging of products in accordance with the given ambience is key to its market success. Several beneficial aspects of Islam could be accommodated in products related with clothings, toiletries, sanitaryware, stationery, object d' arts, cuisine, books, food and medicine without giving them an Islamic garb. Let the humanity benefit from them without feeling culturally intimidated.