Wednesday, 31 August 2011


The end of Ramadan ushers in one of two major celebrations in the Islamic calendar - a day of festivities called Eid ul Fitr. In Arabic Eid means something which returns and is repeated every certain period of time. The word Eid, however, has evolved to mean a festivity. The word Fitr is the root of the word iftar (breaking the fast) and denotes the end of the fasting month. It would be wrong to assume that Muslims celebrate the fact that they no longer have to fast, as Muslims indeed are saddened by the passing of the month of Ramadan. The reality is that Muslims celebrate because Allah has allowed them to participate in and complete the month of fasting and spiritual reflection. Muslims celebrate the fact that Allah, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, may accept their deeds and reward them.

"Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful." [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:185]
The Eid (or celebration) is not carried out in the way we might expect. After the previous night's moon sighting, indicating that the blessed month of Ramadan is over, Muslims wake for the dawn prayer and the beginning of a very special day. In the early morning Muslims bathe and put on their best clothes in preparation for the special Eid prayer. It has become customary to wear new clothes in celebration of Eid. "Allah is beautiful, and He loves that which is beautiful," [Saheeh Muslim] and Eid is a time to display the favours of Allah. It is an act of worship to eat a few dates before setting out for the prayer in emphasis of the fact that the fasting month has indeed ended, and thus, fasting on the Day of Eid is forbidden, as it is a day of celebration and remembrance of Allah.

Muslims who seized the benefits inherent in Ramadan are grateful for this time to celebrate and understand it is but one of the ways that Allah bestows His mercy upon us. Life can sometimes be full of tests and trials, but through the trying times as well as the celebrations, there is wisdom, mercy and forgiveness from Allah. A Muslim is encouraged to celebrate by glorifying Allah, but reminded never to forget that the ability to love life and to celebrate, is but one of Allah's bounties.

What Have We Gained From Ramadan?

We leave the blessed month of Ramadan, its beautiful days and its fragrant nights. We leave the month of the Qur'an, taqwa, patience, jihad, mercy, forgiveness and freedom from hellfire…

Have we fulfilled the requirements of taqwa and graduated from the Ramadan school with the diploma of the Allah-fearing?

Have we fought our souls and desires and defeated them, or have we been overtaken by our customs and blind imitations?

Have we performed our actions in a way that fulfills the conditions for receiving mercy, forgiveness and release from the Fire of Hell?

Many questions and numerous thoughts come to the heart of the sincere Muslim, who asks and answers with truthfulness.

Ramadan is a school of iman and a "stop to recharge one's spiritual batteries" - to acquire one's provision for the rest of the year...

For when will one take a lesson and change for better if not in the month of Ramadan?

The noble month is a true school of transformation in which we change our actions, habits and manners that are in variance with the Law of Allah.

"For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession, before and behind him: They guard him by command of Allah. Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect." [Surah Ar-Ra'd 13:11]
If you are from those who benefited from Ramadan, fulfilled the requirements of taqwa, truly fasted the month, prayed in it with truthfulness, and strove against your soul, then praise and thank Allah, and ask Him for steadfastness upon it until you meet your death.

Be not like one who has sewn a shirt and then destroyed it... Have you seen one who sewed a shirt or thaub, so when she looked at it, she liked it. Then she destroyed it pulling a thread by thread for no reason. What would people say about such a person?!

Or have you seen one who earns a fortune trading throughout the day, then when the night comes, he throws away all that he earned, ringgit by ringgit. What would people say about such a person?!

This is the condition of one who returns to sinning and evil-doing after Ramadan and leaves obedience and righteous actions. So after he was favoured with the blessing of obedience and enjoyment of communicating with Allah, he returned to the blaze of sins and evil actions. How evil are the people who know Allah only in Ramadan!

Falling short in one's commitment to Islam after Ramadan is manifested in many ways, including:

1. Men leaving the five prayers in congregation, after they filled mosques for Taraweeh prayers, thus going to the Masjid for recommended prayers and leaving obligatory ones.

2. Return to musical entertainment, forbidden films, women displaying their adornment beyond that which ordinarily appears thereof, free mixing etc.

This is not thankfulness for blessings and favours, nor is it the sign of acceptance of one's actions, rather this is opposition to favors and absence of thankfulness.

These are from signs of one's deeds not being accepted – and Allah's refuge is sought – for one who truly fasts rejoices on the occasion of Eid, praises his Lord for helping him complete the fast, and remains fearful that Allah may not accept his fasting, just as the Salaf would continue asking for acceptance of their actions in Ramadan for six months after it.

From signs that one's deeds are accepted is that he or she has improved in his or her obedience to Allah.

"And remember! your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): "If you are grateful, I will add more (favours) unto you; But if you show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed." [Surah Ibrahim 14:7]
Increase you in good, faith and righteous actions. So if the servant is truly thankful to his Lord, you will see him guided to more obedience and distanced from sinfulness. Thankfulness is leaving sins, as the early Muslims said.

"And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty (i.e. death)." [Surah Al-Hijr 15:99]
The Muslim must continuously be in the state of obedience of Allah, firm upon His Shari'ah, steadfast upon His Deen, so that he or she is not of those who worship Allah only during one month or only in one place. Rather, the believer knows that the Lord of Ramadan is also the Lord of other months, and that He is the Lord of all times and places, so he is steadfast upon the Shari'ah of Allah until he meets Him while He is pleased with him. Allah said:

"So remain on a right course as you have been commanded, (you) and those who have turned back with you (to Allah); and transgress not (from the Path): for He see well all that you do" [Surah Hud 11:112]

"Say (O Muhammad): "I am but a man like you: It is revealed to me by Inspiration, that your Allah is one Allah: so stand true to Him, and ask for His Forgiveness." And woe to those who join gods with Allah." [Surah Fussilat 41:6]
And the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said:
"Say 'I believe in Allah', then be steadfast." [Saheeh Muslim]
1. If the fasting in Ramadan has ended, then there remains voluntary fasting, such as fasting six days in Shawwal, on Mondays and Thursdays, the three days in the middle of the month, the days of 'Ashura and 'Arafat, and others.

2. If standing in prayer at night during Ramadan has ended, then there remains voluntary night prayer throughout the year.

"They used to sleep but little of the night." [Surah Az-Zaariyaat 51:17]
3. If the charity in Ramadan and Zakat Fitrah have ended, then there is the obligatory Zakat, and also there are many other open doors to charity, voluntary actions and jihad.
4. Reading of the Qur'an and contemplating it is not only for Ramadan, rather it is for all times.

Righteous actions are for all times and all places, so strive, and beware of laziness. And remember that it is not allowed for us to leave the obligatory actions or delay them, such as the five daily prayers on time, in congregation etc.

And do not fall into forbidden actions, such as forbidden sayings, food and drinks, or by looking at or listening to what is forbidden.

Be steadfast and upright upon the Deen of Allah at all times, for you do not know when you'll meet the Angel of Death. Beware of him taking you while you are in a state of sin.

"O Allah, Who turns the hearts, keep our hearts steadfast upon Your Deen"

Let us ask Allah to accept from us and you our fasting, our prayers and other righteous actions, that our condition after Ramadan be a better one, that the state of our Ummah improves, that we are granted honour and that we truly turn to our Lord…Ameen.

[Source: Islam House and The Religion of Islam. Images added.]

Tuesday, 30 August 2011



Monday, 29 August 2011



Following the death of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., the blessed Caliphs Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali (known as Khalifah Rashidun or the “Rightly Guided” Companions of the Prophet s.a.w.) followed in his path, continuing to spread Islam, and a just order based on Qur’anic moral precepts, over a wider area. The enlightened reign of these four Companions is known as the Patriarchal Caliphate (632-661 AD). With the conquests achieved at that time, the Islamic Empire began expanding passed the boundaries of the Arabian Peninsula, growing as far as Tripoli in the west, Horasan in the east and the Caucasus in the north. The peoples in the conquered territories soon adopted Islamic moral values. The foundations of the new states to be founded were also laid during this period. The Patriarchal Caliphate was succeeded by the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), and it was during the Umayyad reign that the Muslim conquest of Spain - one of the momentous events that shaped world history - took place.

At around 671 AD in Damascus, the Ummayads were trying to strategize how best to take Constantinople (Istanbul), due to it being the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (or Byzantium, or 'Rum'). It was decided that the only way to take Constantinople was from the south (through Anatolia) and north (up through Spain, France, Italy, Romania and Hungary), and so Musa Bin Nusayr, the Governor of Northern Africa, was commissioned to begin the invasion of Europe to reach Constantinople through Spain.

Spain was then under the tyrannical rule of King Roderic of the Visigoths. Musa had not decided to proceed with a full scale land invasion of Spain until an opportunity presented itself. King Roderic had reportedly "kidnapped" and raped Count Julian's (the Governor of Ceuta in Northern Morocco, then still part of Spain) daughter who was sent to Roderick's court to be educated among the queen's waiting women. Julian vowed to Roderic, "the next time I return to Spain, I promise to bring you some hawks the like of which your Majesty has never seen!" Julian, a Christian, appealed to Musa for assistance in avenging Roderic for his crime, and hence take him out of rule.

In 710 AD, a preliminary intelligence collection mission was sent to survey the southern coastline of Spain, with the help of Julian, in order to gauge enemy capabilities and to designate a suitable landing spot for a subsequent larger raiding force to remove Roderic. The reconnaissance and subsequent test raid was successful and, after Musa got word of the mission’s success, decided to go forward with a full scale land raid into Spain. At this very moment, there was a fractious civil war underway in the Visigothic Kingdom, weakening army morale, reducing coordination of their forces and leaving them off-guard for a possible Muslim raid. Musa then called upon his young lieutenant to take charge.

That lieutenant was the fearless, legendary leader named Tariq ibn Ziyad. Tariq was born into the North African Berber tribe Nafzawah, and after the death of his father, joined the Muslim army in Northern Africa. As a young soldier, Ziyad had shown great skill in the army and had a strong Muslim faith. This was noticed by Musa ibn Nusair, who made him his deputy and appointed him the Governor of Tangier and Morocco. Tariq is known in Spanish history and legend as Taric el Tuerto (Taric the one-eyed). Tariq ibn Ziyad is considered to be one of the most important military commanders in Iberian history.

Paintings of Tariq ibn Ziyad


Jabal Tariq (Gibralter)
Tariq and his Muslim Berber army had to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to begin the invasion of Spain. On April 29, 711 AD Tariq Bin Ziyad and his army landed at Gibralter (which is derived from the Arabic name Jabal Al Tariq which means Mountain of Tariq, or the more obvious Gibr Tariq, meaning Rock of Tariq).

The 17th century Muslim historian Al Maggari wrote that upon landing, Tariq burned his ships and then made a historical speech (well-known in the Muslim world) to his soldiers (there are several versions of the speech; the following is one of them):
"Brothers in Islam! We now have the enemy in front of us and the deep sea behind us. We cannot return to our homes, because we have burnt our boats. We shall now either defeat the enemy and win or die a coward’s death by drowning in the sea. Who will follow me?"
Tariq warned them that victory and Paradise lay ahead of them and defeat and the sea lay to the rear. It means defeat was not an option. After concluding his sermon, the Muslims themselves felt the vacuum of fear that had engulfed them disappear and now filled with courage and determination, a determination to win decisively.

Painting depicting the burning of Tariq's ships

The Muslim armies swept through Spain in a continuous northward thrust of raids deeper and deeper into Visigothic territory. After a series of raids in enemy territory a decisive engagement took place on 28th Ramadan 92 AH (19th July 711 AD) at the Battle of Guadalete, where Tariq defeated King Roderic, the last Visigothic ruler of Spain, at the Guadalete River in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Tariq’s men had by then increased due to reinforcement sent by Musa. Whilst the Muslim army were largely comprised of foot soldiers, the Spanish army were fully armed with cavalry and horsemen. Due to internal strife within the Visigoth kingdom and the discipline of the Tariq's forces, the Muslim army easily defeated Roderic’s army almost without resistance. Roderick himself was never to be seen again, he had disappeared at some point during the battle, reportedly killed.

Paintings depicting the Battle of Guadalete

Victory was attained on 5th Shawal 92 AH (26th July 711 AD). Tariq sent the glad tidings to Musa who similarly informed the Caliph in Damascus. Musa then left his seat in Qairwan for Spain to join Tariq. Within seven years the conquest of the Iberian peninsula was complete. Muslim advancement continued further into Spain and into Southern France where it was halted after the Muslims were defeated at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD. After the conquest, Tariq was made governor of Spain but eventually was called back to Damascus by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I, where he spent the rest of his life.

Al-Andalus after the conquest (in green)
The Iberian peninsula under Muslim control was made a Wilayah (province) under the Ummayad Caliphate with the capital initially being in Ishbiliyyah (Seville), while Islamic law was established with the Christians and Jews being given their rights as Ahl Al-Dhimma.

Thus began the story of Islam in Europe and the Golden Age of Al-Andalus (or Andalusia) where Muslims ruled for over 700 years. It became one of the centers of Muslim civilization, and the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordova reached a peak of glory in the tenth century. Muslim rule declined after that and ended in 1492 when Granada was conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella.

Rise and Fall of Al-Andalus


When we think of European culture, one of the first things that may come to your mind is the Renaissance. Many of the roots of European culture can be traced back to that glorious time of art, science, commerce and architecture. But long before the Renaissance there was a place of humanistic beauty in Muslim Spain. Not only was it artistic, scientific and commercial, but it also exhibited incredible tolerance, imagination and poetry. It was the Muslim civilization that enlightened Europe and brought it out of the dark ages to usher in the Renaissance. Many of their cultural and intellectual influences still live with us today.

Way back during the eighth century, Europe was still knee-deep in the Medieval period. That's not the only thing they were knee-deep in. This squalid society was organized under a feudal system and had little that would resemble a commercial economy. Medieval Europe was a miserable lot, which ran high in illiteracy, superstition, barbarism and filth. At first, Al-Andalus resembled the rest of Europe in all its squalor, but within two-hundred years the Muslims had turned Al-Andalus into a bastion of culture, commerce and beauty. By the beginning of the 9th century, Muslim Spain was the gem of Europe with its capital city, Cordoba in southern Spain. With the reign of Abdul Al-Rahman III - "the great Caliph of Cordoba" - came the golden age of Al-Andalus. Cordoba was the intellectual center of Europe.

Al-Andalus had a great cultural influence upon Europe until its demise in the late fifteenth century. Many historians who have studied Al-Andalus' influence upon Europe agree that this kingdom, with its social structure and high level of civilization, was far more advanced than the rest of Europe, and that it was one of the principle factors in the development of European civilization. The prominent Spanish historian Blanco Ibanez writes that:
"Defeat in Spain did not come from the north; the Muslim conquerors came from the south. This was much more than a victory, it was a leap of civilization. Because of this, the richest and most brilliant civilization known in Europe was born and flourished throughout the Middle Ages between the 8th and the 15th centuries. During this period northern peoples were shattered by religious wars, and while they moved about in bloodthirsty hoards, the population of Andalusia surpassed 30 million. In this number, which was high for the time, every race and religion moved freely and with equality, and the pulse of society was very lively." [Blasco Ibanez, A la Sombra de la Catedral, Madrid t.y., quoted in The Rise of Islam]
The Splendour of Al-Andalus Cordoba

With its well-illuminated streets, the capital Cordoba provided a striking contrast to the European cities and according to the English historian John W. Draper, "Seven hundred years after this time, there was not so much as one public lamp in London. In Paris, centuries later, whoever stepped over his threshold on a rainy day stepped up to his ankles in mud." [Quoted in The Rise of Islam]. At the same time, in Cordoba there were half a million inhabitants living in 113,000 houses, 700 mosques and 300 public baths spread throughout the city and its twenty-one suburbs.

During the end of the first millennium, Cordoba was the intellectual well from which European humanity came to drink. Students from France and England traveled there to sit at the feet of Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars, to learn philosophy, science and medicine. In the great library of Cordoba alone, there were some 600,000 manuscripts.

This rich and sophisticated society took a tolerant view towards other faiths. Tolerance was unheard of in the rest of Europe, but in Muslim Spain, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in peace and harmony and flourished.

The Golden Age of Andalusian Science

Al-Andalus' contributions to Islam and the Latin West had been immense. Its intellectual contributions were largely in the field of mathematics, natural science and medicine. Arab-Muslim science in Al-Andalus flourished for several centuries. Its origin and rapid growth as a scholarly effort and as a state-supported institution could be traced to the 10th century patronization of scholarship initiated by Abdul
Al-Rahman III (929–961 AD), founder of the Umayyad caliphate in Cordoba. He sought to create a new learning culture in Al-Andalus on the basis of the cultural and scientific achievements of Baghdad.

Although Muslims led and dominated the field of science and technology and were credited with most of Al-Andalus' scientific discoveries and innovations, the scientific enterprise in Andalusia was the result of collaborative efforts by Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars and scientists. The period of growth and expansion in Andalusian science also witnessed the collaborative efforts of Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars, researchers and translators in the production of new knowledge and in its cross-cultural diffusion. Jewish and Christian translators played an important role in advancing the ongoing Muslim synthesis, philosophical and scientific, and in the dissemination of Islamic science in their religious communities.

Al-Andalus had excelled primarily in botany and agriculture, astronomy and medicine. The leading botanists were Abu 'Ubaid al-Bakri and Ibn Hajjaj in the 10th century, Al-Ghafiqi and Ibn Al-Awwam in the 11th century, Abu'l-'Abbas al-Nabati and Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr in the 12th century, and Ibn al-Baytar in the 13th century. They are among the greatest medieval botanists for their production of the period's most excellent writings on botany and agriculture. The Book of Agriculture (Kitab Al-Falahah) by Ibn Al-Awwam is considered the most important medieval work on the subject. It contained 34 chapters dealing with agriculture and animal husbandry. The book was also noted for its treatment of plant diseases and their remedies, and its pioneering attempt to discover a new soil science.

Al-Ghafiqi was a renowned collector of plants in Spain and Africa. On the basis of this collection, he wrote about drugs and plants, which turned out to be the most accurate work in the history of Islam. In the words of writer George Sarton, Al-Ghafiqi was "the greatest expert of his time... His description of plants was the most precise ever made in Islam; he gave the names of each in Arabic, Latin and Berber." [Islamica Magazine]

Ibn Al-Baytar
Ibn Al-Baytar was perhaps the greatest pharmacist of medieval times. He was considered to have written the best work on the subject of simple drugs, with his description of more than 1,400 medical drugs as an outstanding encyclopedic work unsurpassed during the period. Abu'l-'Abbas al-Nabati, the botanist, was known for his writings on plants found along the African coast from Spain to Arabia.

It is quite clear that Andalusian botanists were interested in plants for their theoretical considerations and practical applications. The pursuit of botany was closely linked to the application of this knowledge to agriculture and medicine. Not surprisingly, Al-Andalus came to be noted for its advanced agriculture, unique botanical gardens and outstanding achievements in pharmacology. The Arabs introduced an ingenious irrigation system in Al-Andalus, thus allowing its agriculture to become the most advanced of the medieval period. Such elaborate irrigation systems supplied water to fields and gardens and, along with the advanced practice of agriculture and horticulture, Al-Andalus was able to modify the Persian garden "into a new form, which has survived to this day as the Spanish garden." Al-Andalus turned into one of the more advanced territorial space in the world. The agricultural development, thanks to innovative hydraulic technology and the introduction of new botanic species, allows not just the development of Arts and Science but that it changes the Iberian Peninsula landscape, impelling the creation of numerous sophisticated gardens.

Paintings of Al-Andulas Gardens

Ibn Rushd (Averroes)
Al-Andalus also excelled in medicine. It produced notable figures in Islamic medicine, each of whom authored the most advanced medical treatises of the time, thus helping to chart a new course for medical theory and practice. Interestingly, Al-Andalus' most famous philosophers were also physicians. Among them were Ibn Tufail, Ibn Rushd and the Jewish philosopher, Maimonides. Ibn Rushd (Averroes), better known as a commentator on Aristotle, was credited with several medical works including an encyclopedia entitled The Book of Generalities on Medicine, and his commentaries on Ibn Sina's medical works. Maimonides wrote 10 medical works, all in Arabic.

Al-Andalus' fame in medicine was gained through the work of Al-Zahrawi, the greatest Muslim figure in surgery. Kitab Al-Tasrif, the work that earned him the title "father of surgery," was translated into Hebrew, Latin and Castilian. The treatise on surgery is only one of 30 volumes of a medical encyclopedia treating all aspects of medicine and contained much that was original. It has been widely recognized in the Muslim world and the West as the "first independent surgical treatise ever written in detail." The work also included an unprecedented 200 pictures of surgical instruments, many of which had been invented by Al-Zahrawi himself. Included in the treatise are detailed descriptions of all known surgical operations and the instruments used in each of them. Of all medical works produced by Muslims, Al-Zahrawi's book was, until modern times, second only to Ibn Sina's Canon of Medicine in popularity among medical circles in the West.

Ibn Zuhr
Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr, the most famous member of the Avenzoar family (known for its two generations of distinguished medical doctors) is also worth mentioning. He wrote several medical works, the most important of which is the Book of Diets. Historians of medicine generally consider him the greatest clinical physician produced by Al-Andalus. Taking the medieval period as a whole, he is ranked second only to Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi or Rhazes. In the field of pharmacology, which is closely related to botany and medicine, the works of Al-Ghafiqi and Al-Baytar were of general significance.

Related to medicine is the institution of hospitals and public health.
Al-Andalus was famous for its chain of hospitals, which was considered the most advanced in medieval times. Hospitals were built in cities of Granada, Seville and Cordoba.  It has been said that Cordoba alone had 50 hospitals and 900 public baths. At this time London was just building its first hospital. Not only were there more hospitals in the Islamic Empire than in Europe, but the medical treatment was usually far superior. Muslim hospitals had separate wards for different diseases, trained nurses and physicians and stores of drugs and treatments. As in other major cities in medieval Islam, hospitals in Andalusia also played an educational role not unlike that of our modern teaching hospitals. Most hospitals taught medical students and were inspected regularly to ensure that they are up to standard; students received a certificate to prove they had attended the training and had to pass an examination to get a licence to practise. Islamic hospitals had separate wards for different diseases, training wings, convalescent rooms for the aged and terminally ill as well as stores of drugs and treatments. Islamic hospitals were well organised with different wards for different types of illnesses, outpatient departments and theatres where medical students could attend lectures. Hospitals also looked after old people, especially if they had no families, and the insane.

Al-Andalus Islamic Hospital in Granada

Jabir ibn Afla
As for Andalusian achievements in mathematics and astronomy, leading astronomers were Abu'l-Qasim Al-Majriti, who lived in the 10th and 11th centuries, Al-Zarqali in the 11th century and Jabir ibn Aflah in the 12th century. Although Al-Majriti was an astronomer and alchemist, he was more famous for his Hermetical and occult writings. Nonetheless, he was an accomplished astronomer with several works on the subject to his credit. His writings include several commentaries on the astronomical tables of the famed mathematician from the East, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarazmi. He also commented on the Planisphaenum of Ptolemy and wrote a treatise on the astrolabe.

But the person who should be regarded as the most outstanding astronomer from Andalusia is Al-Zarqali. He was an inventor who became famous for the safiḥa, a flat kind of astrolabe, which gained the attention of Western astronomers after detailed descriptions of it were published in Latin, Hebrew and several other European languages. As an observational astronomer, his most important contribution is the editing of the Toledan Zij (The Toledo Tables). This astronomical table, based on observations carried out in Toledo, was really the product of collaborative work Al-Zarqali had carried out with several Muslim and Jewish scientists. Like his safiḥa, the Toledo Tables attracted wide attention among astronomers in the Muslim and Latin worlds and were used by them for centuries. Copernicus, in his famous book De Revolutionibus Orbium Clestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), acknowledged Al-Zarqali's contributions to astronomy. In the theoretical domain, Al-Zarqali wrote the explicit proof of the motion of the apogee of the sun with respect to the fixed stars. He measured its rate of motion as 12.04 seconds per year, which is remarkably close to the modern calculation of 11.8 seconds.

An important development in Andalusian astronomy in the 12th century was the growing criticism that had been directed against the Ptolemaic planetary system. The first to express dissatisfaction with the system was Jabir ibn Aflah, followed by strong criticisms from philosophers such as Ibn Bajjah and Ibn Tufail, who were motivated by the intellectual need to defend the Aristotelian cosmological scheme. These criticisms did result in one or two new theories. Ibn Bajjah proposed a system based on eccentric circles, whereas Ibn Tufail presented his theory of spiral motion, which presented the system as one of homocentric spheres. Although these new theories did not find any practical applications, the Andalusian critiques of Ptolemaic astronomy left an impact on the minds of Renaissance astronomers.

Andalusian science is significant for our times: it shows that members of the three Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Jew and Christian) can work together to produce a common culture and civilization. It helped expand medieval science to new frontiers and influenced the development of science in the West during the Renaissance, which subsequently lead to the rise of modern science. For the contemporary Muslim world, Al-Andalus shows the way Islam can again be a source of inspiration for progress in science within the context of a pluralistic world.

Some of the greatest scientific achievements of Al-Andalus and other Islamic centres
The Splendor of Andalusian Art and Architecture

One quality acquired from Islamic teachings is the high sense of art and esthetics. The Qur'anic depictions of Paradise are pictures of the highest quality, finest taste, and stunning grandeur. Muslims had this sense of art in their hearts, which is reflected in their work, and thus the lands they ruled became the world's most modern and select regions.

Al-Andalus' capital city of Cordoba was full of amazing beauty with its clean, well-lit streets, libraries, hospitals, and palaces. In the same era, such great European cities as Paris and London were filthy, dark, and neglected. As a result, European Christians visiting Cordoba were amazed and dazzled by the city's splendor, culture, and art.

One of the few remaining examples of Cordoba's grandeur is the famous Cordoba Mosque, now a Catholic cathedral located in the city center. Originally it was a mosque of an esthetic style that captivated the minds of those who entered it. Christian explorers who came to Cordoba were deeply affected by this splendor. In the tenth century, a Saxon nun by the name of Hrotsvitha described Cordoba as the ornament of the world.

One of Andalusia's most spectacular buildings was the Al-Hambra palace, which was decorated with stunning examples of Islamic esthetics and art. Every detail reflected the same fine taste of Islam's higher spirit. Its gardens were full of fountains powered by a system based on gravity. The Muslims who built it were inspired by the Qur'anic depictions of Paradise, for example:

They will have preordained provision: sweet fruits and high honor in Gardens of Delight on couches face to face; a cup from a flowing spring passing round among them, as white as driven snow, delicious to those who drink, which has no headache in it and does not leave them stupefied. (Surah As-Saffat 37:41-47)
They will have Gardens of Eden with rivers flowing under them. They will be adorned in them with bracelets made of gold and wear green garments made of the finest silk and rich brocade, reclining there on couches under canopies. What an excellent reward! What a wonderful repose! (Surah Al-Kahf 18:31)
Architectural Beauty of Al-Andalus

The historical achievements of Al-Andalus show that Islam and Islamic morality played a leading role in the modern world's development. From the very beginning of its revelation, Islam has served as a guiding light, leading humanity to truth, reality, and beauty. The Muslims took their morality with them wherever they went, along with tolerance, reason, science, art, esthetics, hygiene, and prosperity. At a time when Europe was sunk in dark dogmatism and barbarism, the Islamic world was the world's most advanced and modern civilization. The values acquired by individual Europeans from the world of Islam played a fundamental role in developing European civilization.

On the other hand, one of the major reasons why the Islamic world fell behind in some respects was because it became estranged from the reason, sincerity, and open-mindedness taught in the Qur'an. This is because the Qur'an is the greatest source of guidance leading humanity out of darkness of ignorance and into the light of true knowledge. As Allah revealed to our Prophet s.a.w.:

Alif Lam Ra. This is a Book We have sent down to you so that you can bring mankind from the darkness to the light, by the permission of their Lord, to the Path of the Almighty, the Praiseworthy. (Surah Ibrahim 14:1)
Present-day Muslims should know the splendid past of Islamic civilization and honor the responsibility that comes with it. Let's not forget that Muslims are the representatives of a sacred, glorious, and honorable heritage that built one of the greatest civilizations on Earth. Moreover, they have always been envied and admired in equal measure by the representatives of other civilizations or religious denominations.

Muslims today should not just bask in the glory of their past, but must work to help the Islamic world rise once again. Of course Muslims can build a similarly splendid and world-illuminating culture and civilization again, but not until they recreate the spirit of unity and solidarity that drove their predecessors. If they can establish a democratic, constructive, tolerant, and peace-loving culture that works only for the benefit of Islam and humanity and disregards personal interests, they can build the greatest civilization of the twenty-first century.

Sources and Further Reading:

1. The Golden Age of Andalusian Science
2. An Incomplete History: Muslims in Andalus (Chapter 1)
3. The Moors: The Islamic West
4. A Call For An Islamic Union
5. The Rise of Islam
6. The Islamic Origins of Modern Science
7. Muslims and Scientific Thought

[Edited. Images added.]

Thursday, 25 August 2011


The month of Ramadan is indeed a month of blessing in which the Muslim seeks to gain nearness and the immense reward from Allah. It is also a month in which many lessons can be drawn from Islamic history. During this month the Muslims fought many famous battles thereby expanding the mercy of Islam into new lands and also repelling the aggressors that invaded the Islamic lands to restore the protection and authority of Islam and the Muslims. (This had been illuminated in my previous postings, notably the famous Battles of Badr and Hattin.)

Another such famous battle was the Battle of Ain (or Ayn) Jalut in 658 AH (1260 AD) against the Mongol (or Tartar) invasion, which is considered as one of the greatest victories in the annals of human history. Considering the current predicament of the Muslims in Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir, Indonesia, Bosnia, Chechnya - indeed the Muslims all over the world, there are many comparisons and key lessons that can be learnt from this famous battle.

Paintings depicting the Battle of Ain Jalut


Towards the end of 656 AH/1258 AD the Mongols launched one of their largest assaults on the land of the Islamic Khilafah, resulting in the seizure of the Khilafah capital, Baghdad, the killing of the Khalifah Mu'atasim Billah, and the occupation of three quarters of Islamic land.

Heading towards Egypt and Morocco, the last stronghold of the Muslims, the Mongols sent a threatening letter to the Ameer of Egypt, Al-Muzaffar Saifudeen Qutuz, which included the following statement, "We have demolished the land, orphaned the children, tortured the people and slain them, made their honoured despised and their leader a captive. Do you think that you can escape from us? After a while you will know what's coming to you..."

Due to the Muslims weakness and low morale, it was thought that such a threat would suffice in breaking any resistance from the Muslims. However, Qutuz had a different reply. He killed the Mongolian delegation and left their corpses hanging in his capital, lifting his soldiers and people's spirit on the one hand, and putting down his enemy's and that of their spies and loyalists on the other hand.

This raised the spirit of the Muslims and simultaneously shocked the Mongols for they realised they were facing a leader unlike those they had previously encountered.

Qutuz rallied the Muslims to prepare for the inevitable battle that would occur. Under his leadership, Muslims were rallied upon Iman, unity and the necessary weapons of steel to confront the enemy. He sought the help of Governors and Scholars alike to unify, stand for the defense of Islam and focus the efforts of the Muslims towards the liberation of the Islamic lands.

Mongol Empire and Mamluk Sultanate circa 1260 AD. Note the sizes of both.

Ain Jalut Battlefield
Then it was time to engage the enemy on the battlefield at Ain Jalut on the Friday 25th Ramadan 658 AH/1260 AD. Qutuz led the Muslims into the battle, which initially swayed towards the Mongols. Observing this, Qutuz climbed on a rock, throwing his helmet away, shouting "Wa Islamah...Wa Islamah...," urging the army to keep firm and fight Allah's enemies. The frustrated leaders of the army looked towards that voice to see their leader's flushed face, hitting angrily with his sword and engaging the enemy. Qutuz's courage stunned his leaders who promptly followed his footsteps, lifting the morality of the Muslim army.

Soon, the battle shifted in favour of the Muslims, until the Mongolian army was shattered and fled from the battle. Victory was for Islam and the Muslims. As for the Mongols, when they realised their incursion and dominance in the Islamic East was fading and that Muslims regained their power, they escaped towards their homeland, which eased Qutuz's efforts to liberate all of Sham (Syria) in a few weeks.

Mamluk Warriors


The Battle of Ain Jalut saw a decisive victory of the Mamluks of Egypt over the invading Mongols, which saved Egypt and Islam and halted the westward expansion of the Mongol empire.

It was one of the most significant battles of world history - comparable to Marathon, Salamis, Lepanto, Chalons and Tours - in that it set the future course of both Islamic and western civilization. Had the Mongols succeeded in conquering Egypt, they might have been able, following the return of Hulegu (who, upon the death of the
Great Khan, Mongke,
and in keeping with Mongol tradition, had to withdraw before the Battle of Ain Jalut), to carry on across North Africa to the Straits of Gibraltar. Europe would have been surrounded from Poland to Spain. Under such circumstances, would the Islamic Civilization have flourished? Would the European Renaissance have occurred? Its foundations would certainly have been far weaker. The world today might have been a considerably different place.

As it was, the Mamluks not only stopped the Mongols’ westward advance, but - just as important - they also smashed the myth of Mongol invincibility. The Mongols’ belief in themselves was never quite the same, and Ain Jalut marked the end of any concerted campaign by the Mongols in the Levant (or Greater Syria, which then comprised modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan).

In saving Cairo from the fate of Baghdad (which was ravaged by the Mongols in 656 AH/1258 AD), the battle of Ain Jalut also sealed the doom of the relatively weaker remaining Crusader states. Mamluk Egypt rose to the pinnacle of Islamic political, military and cultural power, a position it maintained until the rise of the Ottomans some 200 years later.


Such a decisive victory for the Muslims under a sincere leadership, at a time when they were weak and overpowered by the enemy, draws many comparisons with the situation of the Muslims today:

Comparison 1 - Treachery of the Rulers

The ability of the Mongols to have achieved from the beginning such a crushing blow against the Muslims, taking the capital of the Khilafah, killing those sincere to the Deen and then taking hold over two-thirds of Islamic land, resulted from the treachery of Al-‘Alkami. Al-‘Alkami was the minister to Khalifah Mu'atasim Billah. He tricked Mu'atasim to make peace with the Mongols whilst at the same time conducting secret correspondence with the Mongols, promising them to halt any resistance against them providing that they appoint him as Khalifah and allow him to establish his own state in Baghdad. This treachery led to the death of Mu'atasim and the sincere governors and scholars who went to negotiate with the Mongols only to be killed. It also led to the death of Al-‘Alkami at the hands of the Mongols, for their promises to him meant nothing.

Compare the treachery of Al-‘Alkami to that of the rulers over the Muslims today. The Muslims are being tricked into making peace with Israel through the actions of the rulers, many of whom have publicly already made their peace, like Mubarak of Egypt [now deposed], [King] Abdullah of Jordan and [the late] Arafat of Palestine. The result of this treachery is the continual existence of Israel and the betrayal and bloodshed of the Muslims in Palestine who live as oppressed prisoners under Israeli rule.

What did these leaders get in return from the enemy? Bankrupt economies, social deprivation, absence of political will, the perpetual fear of Israeli aggression and a Muslim Ummah that has recognized their treachery and work to remove them from power.

As for the example of [ex-Pakistani President] Musharraf, he attempted to convince the Muslims of Pakistan the benefits of allowing America to bomb the Muslims in Afghanistan for economic benefit, the easing of sanctions and a say in the formation of a new government in Afghanistan. What did Musharraf get in return for his services to America? The economic benefits promised by America are insignificant in dealing with the total debt that Pakistan is servicing and linked to the harsh structural adjustment policies of the IMF that seek to place the vital economic resources in the hands of private foreign investors and institutions whilst placing further hardship upon the Muslims of Pakistan. Politically, Musharraf was "shocked" to discover that the Northern Alliance had entered Kabul with the permission of America, though America had agreed to halt the Northern Alliance advance into Kabul until it had consulted with the Pakistani leadership.

These rulers and their treachery has gained nothing for Islam, the Muslims, neither for themselves - yet they persist in their treachery.

Allah says:

"As for those who take the Kafir as allies in preference to the believers, do they hope to be honoured by them, when behold all honour (Izza) belongs to Allah alone." [Surah An-Nisa 4:139]

Comparison 2 - Responding to the Threat of the Enemy

The Mongols had sent a chilling reminder to the Muslims about any opposition to their expansion and rule. But though the Muslims were weak and of low morale, Qutuz stood firm upon Islam responding to the threatening letter with an equal threat. His stance to the delegates of the Mongols was to inform them that they were dealing with a people that would not permit the desecration of Islam, its people and its lands. Then he took steps to mobilize his resources to prepare for the battle.

Compare this to when [former] President Bush of America declared that the war of Afghanistan was a war in which countries had to choose sides. To the UN delegates he stated and threatened categorically this choice was, "Either you are with us or against us." How did the rulers over the Muslims respond to this threat which would mean the desecration of Islam, its people and lands?

Musharraf, Karimov [President of Uzbekistan] and the Turkish leadership were from those who not only supported America in its threat, but provided the necessary intelligence and logistical support for America to carry out its attack upon the Muslims of Afghanistan. Gaddafi of Libya, King Abdullah of Jordan were from those who publicly supported America and even gave their support for the bombing to continue during the month of Ramadan. Others such as [President] Bashier (Sudan) and Arafat offered their support by compiling a list of "suspected terrorists" in their states and handing them over to the CIA.

The likes of [President] Bashar al-Assad of Syria implicitly gave their support to America by wanting to gain assurance that America's threat was confined to Afghanistan and did not extend to the Arab states. As for the likes of [the late] Saddam Hussein his flaunting opposition to America's threat cannot be considered in the same ilk as the stance of Qutuz. Qutuz stood upon Islam and his desire to protect Islam whereby Saddam, without the need of America has desecrated Islam, taken the blood of the Muslims and siphoned their resources in Iraq. As for his political stance it is purely for the benefit of his western backers i.e. Britain.

While Qutuz's response to the Mongols threat raised the spirit of the Muslims and simultaneously shocked the enemy, the response of the rulers of today in similar circumstances has left the Muslim Ummah in despair and simultaneously reassured the Americans about their compliance to their will.

Allah says:

"O you who believe! If you aid (the cause of) Allah, He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly." [Surah Muhammad 47:7]

Comparison 3 - Response of the Scholars

Amongst the many publicly renowned scholars who contributed to encouraging the Muslims to unify and prepare for the Jihad was the "Sheikh of Scholars" Al-Izz Bin Abdis-Salam. Aside from responding to this command with vigour rallying the Muslims and using the mimbar (pulpit) of the mosque to remind the Muslims of their responsibilities, such was the integrity of Al-‘Izz that even when Qutuz required a fatwa to impose taxes upon the people in order to equip the Muslim army, Al-‘Izz refused until all the wealth of the governors and their leaders was spent.

Compare this with the scholars who have taken the public positions in the Muslim world today, whilst those of sincerity languish in the prisons of the Muslim world. How the scholars taking the public positions have permitted the rulers to partake in such betrayal against Islam and the Muslims in Afghanistan and in their own states. When Prince Nayef, the Saudi Interior Minister said "Nobody has the right to issue a fatwa (religious ruling) calling for a jihad [holy war] and support for the Afghan regime, except the ifta (jurisprudence) council or whoever is assigned by that council to issue a fatwa. All religious scholars agree on this, and jihad is not obligatory unless ordered by the leader of the country," where were the scholars of the ifta council to declare the Jihad?

In America, one such Imam declared the duty of the Muslims in the American army to defend their homeland (America) and attack those who America considers her enemy. How, instead of restraining the just ruler to the truth, they permit the corruption of the unjust rulers who have sought to retain the division of the Muslim lands and the implementation of Kufr upon the heads of the Muslims. In addition they have permitted the rulers to take the wealth through the imposition of harsh and unbearable taxes like in Pakistan with the General Sales Tax (GST) and the raising of VAT in Sudan as a substitute for direct taxes.

Abi al-'Awar as-Silmi reported that the Messenger of Allah
s.a.w. said: 
"Beware of the doors of the ruler for they have indeed become a source of trouble and humiliation." (Saheeh ad-Dailamee, Ibn Mundah, Ibn-'Asaaki - as-Saheehah: 1253)

Comparison 4 - Preparation for the Battle

Qutuz gathered the governors, the scholars and the Muslims upon Iman, unity, the preparation to fight and focusing upon the victory of Allah over the enemy. The necessary money was raised towards this objective and the army was mobilized to engage in the battle to defend Islam, its followers and lands and to fight the usurping aggressor.

Compare this with today, how the rulers have prepared the governors, scholars and army for the battle. Musharraf helped the Americans prepare for the battle against the Muslims and deserted the Muslims completely. He instructed the army to prepare to stand on the Afghan-Pakistani border to prevent any Muslims fleeing from Afghanistan to seek refuge in Pakistan rather than stand alongside their Muslims brothers in Afghanistan to fight against the enemy. Musharraf used the army to quell any demonstrations that voiced support for the Jihad in Afghanistan and prohibited the raising of money towards the Jihad. While this was occurring, a unit of the Jordanian army was returning from over a 1500 mile distance UN duty to protect British interests in Sierra Leone and flew over Palestine upon their return, forgetting that Muslims, just 10 metres next door in Palestine were suffering at the hands of Israeli aggression.

Have the rulers forgotten the words of Allah when He says:

"Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly." [Surah Al-Anfaal 8:60]
And Allah says:

"O you who have believed, do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies, extending to them affection while they have disbelieved in what came to you of the truth, having driven out the Prophet and yourselves [only] because you believe in Allah , your Lord. If you have come out for jihad in My cause and seeking means to My approval, [take them not as friends]. You confide to them affection, but I am most knowing of what you have concealed and what you have declared. And whoever does it among you has certainly strayed from the soundness of the way." [Surah Al-Mumtahanah 60:1]

Comparison 5 - Calling to Islam at Times of Need

During the battle, when initially the Mongols were in ascendancy Qutuz climbed on a rock, throwing his helmet away, shouting "Wa Islamah...Wa Islamah...", urging the army to keep firm and fight Allah's enemies. This attitude can be seen from the example of the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. during the Battle of Uhud when he rallied the nine Sahabah (Companions) who were around him by shouting, "Come on! I am the Messenger of Allah," at such a time when the Qurayshi army had gained the upper hand in the battle and many of the Muslims had become weak and deserted the battle believing that the Messenger of Allah
s.a.w. had been killed. This was the Iman, passion and love of Islam that Qutuz wanted to build within the Muslims.

Compare this to the rulers of today. Though the need to rally the Muslims upon Islam and Allah's help is evident, we find the rulers shouting, "Wa America!! Wa UN!! Wa NATO!!" Arafat and the Arab rulers did not seek to rally the Muslims behind Islam on the matter of Israel. On the contrary Arafat announced that there could be no peace unless America was the broker. Likewise, when Musharraf was put under pressure from America on the matter of Afghanistan, he responded by rallying the Muslims to accept the American demand to use her air bases to launch attacks against Afghanistan.

Do the rulers not remember the dua' (supplication) of the Messenger of Allah
s.a.w. after he was chased out of Ta'if bleeding from the stones that were thrown at him by the children and slaves and he lamented:
"O Allah! To you I complain of my weakness, little resources and lowliness before man. O Most Merciful! You are the Lord of the weak and You are my Lord. To whom would you confide me? To one afar who will misuse me or an enemy to whom You have given dominance over me? If You are not angry with me I do not care Your favour of well-being on me is sufficient for me. I take refuge in the light of your countenance by which the darkness is illuminated and the things of this world and the next are rightly ordered, lest Your Anger descends upon me or Your Wrath not Light upon me but come down upon me. It is for You to be satisfied until You are well pleased. There is no power and no might except in You."

Comparison 6 - Impact of the Battle

The direct outcome of this battle was the liberation of the Muslims from the Mongolian rule and their corrupt creed, lifting the spirit and esteem of Muslims, and regaining the strength and position of the Islamic State which stood for centuries defending Islam and Muslims against the spread of Kufr.

Compare today. Look at the Arab-Israeli wars, the Pakistan-Indian wars, Bosnia, Palestine, Gulf Crisis etc - the direct outcome has been one of the rulers over the Muslims reinforcing the subjugation of Kufr, destroying the esteem and spirit of the Muslims and betraying Islam and the people. The aftermath of Afghanistan shows the Afghan leaders gathered around with begging bowls at the Bonn Conference over the new government for Afghanistan after the blood of Muslims is spilled whilst America sizes up its options to attack another part of the Muslim land in its pursuit of "terrorists."

Source: The Winter Of Islam And The Spring To Come.


The Battle of Ain Jalut was a glorious event in the annals of Islamic History and if the comparisons which were made were to evoke a true lesson that we would learn from and tread the path of, it would be the following:

Under the sincere Islamic leadership, the Muslims were unified, gained strength and direction from their weakness, their Iman re-ignited and the prepared armies of the Muslims were unleashed to repel the aggressor, defend the lands and body of the Muslims and return the authority to Islam.

Today we lack this sincere leadership and the Islamic system that would mobilize the resources of the Muslims towards the duty of Islam and the Muslims. Leaders who seek victory for the enemies of Allah, His Messenger and the Muslims lead us.

The blessed month of Ramadan should not pass without the Muslims recognizing and engaging in the duty to remove these leaderships and their corrupt systems that they implement upon us.

May Allah Help us to complete our fast and obligations and to establish His rule, the Khilafah.

[Source: and Saudi Aramco World (edited). Images added.]

Note: A good Malay version of the Battle of Ain Jalut can be read in Bukit Barisan blog.