Islam and knowledge

The intellectual influence of Islam and fears for Muslim scholarship today and in the future

Islam means peace. It came to elevate humankind onto a higher plain of being, with respect for diversity and the establishment of justice in all human relationships and a move away from power-based exploitation.

Islam created the first truly global civilisation with its advances in the sciences and arts. It was also responsible for lifting Europe out of its dark ages.

The 800 years of Muslim rule in Spain between the 8th to 15th century not only gathered and preserved the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman knowledge, it also built upon and expanded that knowledge in so many new fields of science, mathematics, astronomy, law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology and music.

Despite what the Pope says about Europe’s Christian past, Europe was rescued from its dark ages by European Muslim scholarship. Today’s Europe is indebted to Islam. Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) created covivencia - the golden age for Jews, Christian and Muslims living, thriving and prospering together. Al-Andalus was the true precursor to the European Union. It taught Europeans to not only tolerate but respect people who have different beliefs and backgrounds. An understanding of covivencia is needed as today’s Europe grapples with it‘s multiple identities.

The first word revealed to the Prophet Muhammed was iqra (or read/recite), such was the emphasis Islam places on learning and scholarship. A famous saying of the Prophet states that "the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr".

Muslim scholarship over the last few centuries has been in rapid decline due to the arrogance that comes with power and refusal to learn from others. The problems that plague the Muslim world today can almost all be traced back to this decline in intellectual excellence in all spheres of knowledge.

Islam was revealed through the Prophet. The compiled words of God revealed to the Prophet form the Qur’an. The Qur’an is thus divine, but its interpretation is human - and no human interpretation can be deified. The Qur’an is timeless guidance for mankind; it is not a rule book. Each successive Muslim generation needs to approach the sacred text afresh in order to apply new insights to vastly changing historical experiences. A failure to do so leads to intellectual stagnation, dogma and irrelevance.

There is no clergy in Islam, individuals are empowered by God with a sense of purpose to promote good and prevent injustice. All individual and collective actions in Islam must conform to the following four principles: justice (adl), benevolence (ihsan), compassion (rahmah) and wisdom (hikmah). These are also the attributes of God.

Islam is not about the next world, it is about this world - and how to make it a peaceful and just place for all. The Prophet is reported to have said that to love one’s country is part of faith (iman) and to serve the people is to serve God.

Asim Siddiqui is Chairman of the City Circle, which provides a place for British Muslim and non-Muslim communities to engage. More details can be found on www.thecitycircle.com. He works as a forensic accountant.
Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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