Gutenberg and the Date Palm
21 Sep, 2007
During the Taleban rule in Afghanistan it was difficult to ignore the irony that, despite the banning of everything “modern” and “infidel”, the Toyota pick-up truck and the AK-47 seemed to warrant a special dispensation. Television sets, cassette players, radios, and even kites were sought out and enthusiastically destroyed as un-Islamic symbols of evil Western influence, but not however, the Taleban’s indispensable satellite phones. The taleban era was held up as an example of how an ideal Islamic state should look and function; which gives me cause to ponder just how those who crave a reconstructed seventh century Islamic caliphate, would structure their proposed utopia; the nitty-gritty if you will, of what qualifies as Islamically ‘acceptable’, or alternatively, that which would be subject to strictly enforced bans in everyday caliphate life.
Presumably, in the fields of medicine and pharmacology, they envisage a return to their Prophet’s favoured practice of cupping as a treatment, and if that doesn’t prove efficacious, perhaps a goodly draft of tepid camel’s urine called for. Muhammad is reported to have prescribed black cumin seeds as “a cure for everything but death” so; if the caliphate’s “new management” team plans to adhere strictly to seventh century Islamic medicine, or has any semblance of integrity or credibility, all the modern pharmaceutical companies will be need to be replaced by cumin seed farmers and camel urine bottlers.
Narrated Abu Qilaba: Anas said, "Some people of 'Ukl or 'Uraina tribe came to Medina and its climate did not suit them. So the Prophet ordered them to go to the herd of camels and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 4, Number 234.)
Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "There is healing in black cumin for all diseases except death." (Sahih Bukhari vol. 7 book 71 # 592).
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "If a fly falls in the vessel of any of you, let him dip all of it (into the vessel) and then throw it away, for in one of its wings there is a disease and in the other there is healing (antidote for it) i e. the treatment for that disease."(Bukhari Volume 7, Book 71, # 673.)
I strongly suspect however, that their fanciful ‘perfect society’ will not feature a return to the water-wells, camel transportation and herbal treatments of the seventh century. My guess is that they would opt for a hypocritically convenient and expedient appropriation of infidel civilization—with a few superficial token changes—and a very thin coat of “Islamic green” paint. This became the case, throughout history, with every culture they came to rule; all the scientific, medical, and architectural achievements of the conquered people were later presented, ex post facto, as “Islamic” in origin.
Time has demonstrated that Muslims can always be relied on to rant about the evils of degenerate Western culture, whilst being almost entirely dependent on what that culture has produced. Bernard Lewis in his book ‘What Went Wrong” points out that the Ottomans, who were the supreme power in Islam at the time, dug their heels in and refused to adopt the printing press for over 300 years after its invention, seeing it as a diabolical infidel contraption of no conceivable benefit to Islam. Their intransigence would seem to be supportive of the comment made by former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban, when he quipped “Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”
Gutenberg’s movable type printing process, and its far-reaching benefits, has proved to be one of the truly seminal inventions of human history, providing universal access to information and learning through the medium of the mass-produced book. In modern times, virtually every aspect of human advancement, in one way or another, has demonstrably relied on this one man’s inspiration. Ideas and concepts of philosophical or social import were distributed far and wide. Medical, scientific and technological advances became freely available to the few who could read—and fostered a determination to extend literacy to those who could not— all this flowed directly from the availability of the printed word. It is often claimed that Gutenberg’s invention was the prime enabler of the European renaissance.
The ‘rightly guided’ Caliph Umar, conversely, is reputed to have ordered the total destruction of books, by the hundreds of thousands, in the great library of Alexandria with the words "if what is written in them agrees with the Koran, they are not required; if it disagrees, they are not desired. Destroy them therefore." If this is indeed true, and is indicative of Muslim thinking, it is no wonder an Islamic renaissance has never occurred.
Interestingly, the United Nations, in its 2002 Arab Human Development Report, found that the total number of books translated into Arabic each year is no more than 330, or one-fifth of those annually translated in a small country like Greece. Indeed, the total number of books translated into Arabic during the last 1,000 years, since the age of Caliph Al-Ma’moun, (a ninth-century Arab ruler who was a patron of cultural interaction between Arab, Persian, and Greek scholars) to this day is less than those translated in Spain in one year
Middle Eastern history is littered with examples of wanton foot-dragging and cherry-picking when it comes to accepting, adopting or adapting to outside ideas and influences, leading to the situation whereby even the industrial revolution passed them by. The petty squabbling rivalries, and vainglorious cerebral swagger of Arab Muslim culture, seems to preclude the possibility of the much-needed quantum leap from feudal backwardness to modernity that Japanese society achieved during the period of the nineteenth century Meiji renewal. The Japanese progressed from slavishly copying foreign ways and products, to becoming the highly respected innovators they are today; and they accomplished it all within the time-span of a few generations. The Japanese, being a rational and disciplined people, realized they’d be hopelessly left behind if they failed to modernize or continued to maintain their traditional social structure. Unfortunately for the Muslim world, due to their arrogant sense of superiority, they have arrived at no such conclusion and now, having missed the express train of progress, they stand flat-footed, humiliated, and enraged on the station platform, blaming their situation on everyone but themselves.
All successful cultures, in order to progress, have demonstrated the ability for patience, co-operative discipline, organized planning and deferred gratification; all qualities wholly absent in the fatalistic IBM mindset of the Arab Muslim— Insh’Allah (if Allah wills it), Bukra (tomorrow) and Ma’lesh (it doesn’t matter)—any or all of these three repeatedly roll off their tongues to justify their lassitude and inertia in a world of predestination which is devoid of free-will.
Even in a relatively simple pursuit such as agriculture they have stagnated. One would naturally expect that their millennia of date production would have placed them, so to speak, at the top of the tree of innovative excellence in that field; sadly, yet again, not so. It was in fact the reviled Israeli Jews, and not the Arabs, who applied themselves to the task of improving this most traditional of Middle Eastern cash-crops, and as a consequence, Israeli date trees are now yielding 400 pounds per-tree-per-annum, and are not only faster maturing but are low enough at maturity to be harvested from the ground or from a short step-ladder. The positive multiplier effect of these improvements goes without saying.
By contrast, the Arabs of the Middle East have been growing date palms since time immemorial and their average tree is about 18-20 feet tall, requires slow, labor-intensive harvesting from a long ladder, and yields about 38 pounds of dates per-tree-per-annum; a mere 10% of the Israeli equivalent in both yield and harvesting efficiency……So there’s that old eight ball again!
Although endless and specious claims are made that Muslim thinkers were once a veritable powerhouse of original thought during Islam’s ‘golden age’, it is nonetheless irrefutable, in the light of deeper investigation, that whilst their works certainly proved advantageous to Western civilization, they were nothing more than a beneficial conduit for information gleaned from other, more advanced cultures, primarily those of the Indians and Persians.
As one wag noted “Muslims claim to have contributed the numeral “Zero” to the sum total of human knowledge, and alas, have continued to contribute zero ever since” †
† The universal symbols we now know as Arabic numerals, including the Zero, were referred to by Arabic sources, from the earliest times, as arqam al hind -- "figures from India". The Muslims of that day, though generally contemptuous of non-Islamic culture, had no problem conceding the invention of this number system to India.
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Warner MacKenzie is a resident of Sydney, with a long-standing interest in Islam and its impact on Western society.
Date: Friday September 21, 2007
Time: 21:21:44 -0700
Islam has been an absolute usurper -- be it the wealth of the infidels or their talents.
Name: yes its true vanity and fakse superiority is dangerous
Date: Friday September 21, 2007
Time: 22:53:01 -0700
yes its true,false sense of superiority makes one unable to see the truth and they get left behind. one must strive for eco friendly progress.
Date: Saturday September 22, 2007
Time: 11:50:43 -0700
Ugh! "Islamic Green." Darn, they took my favorite color - a clear green - of living, growing plants - for the islamic flag.
Name: ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF WAR: THE KORAN IS A BOOK OF WAR: ALLAH IS A GOD OF WAR
Date: Saturday September 22, 2007
Time: 23:15:32 -0700
ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF WAR: THE KORAN IS A BOOK OF WAR: ALLAH IS A GOD OF WAR By Larry Houle www.godofreason.com firstname.lastname@example.org Islam is a declaration of war against infidels. Islam is an IDEOLOGY of WAR. The Koran is a BOOK OF WAR. Allah is a GOD OF WAR. This war is permanent until all the infidels have converted, paid a submission tax or have been murdered. This is the LAW OF GOD AS SET DOWN IN THE KORAN Infidels can be murdered by Muslims as a LAW OF GOD. Not only can they all be murdered but the wives and daughters of the murdered infidels can be taken as booty, raped, and then sold as slaves. Their sons can be sold into slavery. If there is any doubt as to the boy’s age of puberty - Muslims can pull down their pants and inspect their genital area for hairs. Even the slightest sign of hair growth means that these young men can be taken and beheaded. As a LAW OF GOD, Muslims can then loot and pillage the property of the murdered infidels, and must share the booty obtained from the sale of boys and women and the proceeds of looting with ALLAH. Muslims can own slaves as a LAW OF GOD. Slavery has been an integral institutionalized part of Islam since it’s creation by Muhammad. ALL THIS EVIL ARE THE LAWS OF GOD AS SET DOWN IN THE KORAN. Not only that but righteous Muslims can ascend as martyrs to the evil sexually depraved Islamic Paradise of eternal hard - ons and virgins who re - generate as virgins after each sex act. THIS IS THEIR ETERNAL REWARD FOR OBEYING THESE EVIL LAWS OF GOD.
Name: Nisrin bindalla
Date: Sunday September 23, 2007
Time: 03:25:31 -0700
I couldent finish your article because it's not really worth reading but I just want to say that the taliban rule in Afghanistan isn't the ideal Islamic State, on the other hand it's nothing near it. What I can see is that you just don't want to see the good side of the Islamic culture & I wont be verry suprised if you were a Zhianist. & about sivilization when the islamic state was at its glory with scientist in medine, maths, ostronomy, big central hospitals that were divided into departents for syrgery, medicine & dermatology with qualified staff of doctors & nurses & when the patiant left he would be given new clothing & money to help him, at tht time the european cities were still in dirt in the dark ages still wondering if women were human ar another type of creatures. the modern wesern science is based on the science that came from the islamic world, & we don't neglect that the knowlge we had was based on greec scriptures & then came the muslim scientists & adaped & renewed this knowlge. Any way wat I'm trying to say is be more oppen minded & sitt back & look at the hole picture not only one side of it, extremists are exremists they don't show the true side of whatever relegion they are in thats why they're called extremist. there has to be people in this world that are oppen minded & exept othors with out lossing their individuality. Any do you think that the west is perfec & has no bad sides its enough that you back up Isreal for us to hate you, but what I'm trying to say is that we shouldent think in that way or else we're heading to a world war three. May pease be on all the world.
Name: The emperor of Byzantium
Date: Sunday September 23, 2007
Time: 11:08:38 -0700
Nisrin bindalla needs to learn how to spell. Perhaps the islamic school this person attended should review the way it teaches basic reading and writing.
Date: Sunday September 23, 2007
Time: 17:20:01 -0700
Nisrin binalla said "extremists are exremists they don't show the true side of whatever relegion they are in thats why they're called extremist".-----You and your so called moderate kind refused to act in the best interests of your religion by failing in your duty to deal with your extremists and now you are all paying the price for that. Don't come here whining about being misunderstood. Muslims had their chance and blew it.
Date: Monday September 24, 2007
Time: 00:48:51 -0700
Japan, which is relatively poor in minerals and even farmland, is now among the richest nations on earth because of its adoption of Euro-American industrial methods. Saudi Arabia, despite its oil wealth, manufactures almost nothing while importing all its automobiles, weapons, and probably everything else with two or more moving parts. If its oil wealth vanished tomorrow, or if someone–probably in Israel, Europe, or the United States–made a technological breakthrough in controlled nuclear fusion, the House of Saud would have to go back to riding camels and living in tents as soon as its accumulated wealth ran out. This is because the Saudis know only how to live off their oil wealth. They don’t know how to manufacture anything, and they are certainly not as good as American or Israeli farmers at growing things.
Date: Tuesday September 25, 2007
Time: 13:41:37 -0700
Good point, Pundit. I would like to add (and to further demonstrate the author's point), that it is not only industrial/manufacturing prowess that separate the western and Islamic worlds. The human brain itself, through it's creative output, is the wellspring of economic growth. Microsoft is just one example of an enerprise that produces a product that is entirely a non-physical creation of the human mind (computer software). And of course, the key to achieving all of this is through secular education - which is sorely lacking in the Muslim world today.
Date: Thursday November 01, 2007
Time: 07:29:37 -0700