Friday, October 24, 2008

419)Qatar's Quest to Build a Knowledge Society; from "The Ismaili" Website; Quotes of Aga Khan IV and others.

"All human beings, by their nature, desire to know."(Aristotle, The Metaphysics, circa 322BC)

"Seek knowledge, even in China"(Prophet Muhammad, circa 632CE)

"Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave"(Prophet Muhammad, circa 632CE)"

"Here is a relevant verse from the Noble Qur'an, cited by Nasir-i Khusraw, hujjat-i Khurasan in his Khawaan al-Ikhwaan : "It is He who created you from dust, then from a sperm drop, then from a blood clot, then He brings you forth as a child, then lets you reach your age of full strength, then lets you become old - though some of you die before - and then lets you reach the appointed term; and that haply you may find the intellect (la'allakum ta'qilun)."(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet)

"No belief is like modesty and patience, no attainment is like humility, no honour is like knowledge, no power is like forbearance, and no support is more reliable than consultation"(Hazrat Ali, the first Imam of Shia Islam, circa 650CE)

"My profession is to be forever journeying, to travel about the Universe so that I may know all its conditions."(Ibn Sina, aka Avicenna, 11th century Muslim Philosopher, Physician and Scientist, author of the Canon of Medicine, circa 1037CE)

"The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being"(Aga Khan III, April 4th 1952, Karachi, Pakistan)

"God has given us the miracle of life with all its attributes: the extraordinary manifestations of sunrise and sunset, of sickness and recovery, of birth and death, but surely if He has given us the means with which to remove ourselves from this world so as to go to other parts of the Universe, we can but accept as further manifestations the creation and destructions of stars, the birth and death of atomic particles, the flighting new sound and light waves. I am afraid that the torch of intellectual discovery, the attraction of the unknown, the desire for intellectual self-perfection have left us"(Aga Khan IV,Speech, 1963, Mindanao, Phillipines)

"Our religious leadership must be acutely aware of secular trends, including those generated by this age of science and technology. Equally, our academic or secular elite must be deeply aware of Muslim history, of the scale and depth of leadership exercised by the Islamic empire of the past in all fields"(Aga Khan IV, 6th February 1970, Hyderabad, Pakistan)

"It (Surah of Light from the Quran) tells us that the oil of the blessed olive tree lights the lamp of understanding, a light that belongs neither to the East nor West. We are to give this light to all. In that spirit, all that we learn will belong to the world and that too is part of the vision I share with you"(Aga Khan IV, Speech, 25 Sept. 1979)

"In Islamic belief, knowledge is two-fold. There is that revealed through the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) and that which man discovers by virtue of his own intellect. Nor do these two involve any contradiction, provided man remembers that his own mind is itself the creation of God. Without this humility, no balance is possible. With it, there are no barriers"(Aga Khan IV, 16 March 1983, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan)

"Above all, following the guidance of the Holy Quran, there was freedom of enquiry and research. The result was a magnificent flowering of artistic and intellectual activity throughout the ummah" (Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

"Education has been important to my family for a long time. My forefathers founded al-Azhar University in Cairo some 1000 years ago, at the time of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt. Discovery of knowledge was seen by those founders as an embodiment of religious faith, and faith as reinforced by knowledge of workings of the Creator's physical world. The form of universities has changed over those 1000 years, but that reciprocity between faith and knowledge remains a source of strength"(Aga Khan IV, 27th May1994, Cambridge, Massachusets, U.S.A.)

"From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, the Muslim civilizations dominated world culture, accepting, adopting, using and preserving all preceding study of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy, among other areas of learning. The Islamic field of thought and knowledge included and added to much of the information on which all civilisations are founded. And yet this fact is seldom acknowledged today, be it in the West or in the Muslim world, and this amnesia has left a six hundred year gap in the history of human thought"(Aga Khan IV, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, 1996)

"First, the globalisation of the knowledge of the cultures of the Umma is critical. We have to make known the cultural inheritance of the Muslims to the non-Muslim as well as the Muslim parts of the world because we will never succeed in building the respect and recognition that the Umma deserves unless we present the Umma as a remarkable carrier of civilisation.The misconceptions about Islam and Muslims in the West exist because we are, even today, absent from the global civilisation. We should encourage the Western education system to bring in knowledge of the civilisation of Islam into the secondary education system.I am thrilled with the initiative that Dubai and other states in the Gulf are taking by creating museums. Retracing our historical legacies and bringing them back in the modern world is extremely important."(Aga Khan IV, Interview with Gulf News, Dubai, UAE, April 2008)

The above are 15 quotes and excerpts from Blogpost Four Hundred:

Qatar’s Quest to Build a Knowledge Society

"The fundamental reason for the pre-eminence of Islamic civilizations lay neither in accidents of history nor in acts of war, but rather in their ability to discover new knowledge, to make it their own, and to build constructively upon it. They became the Knowledge Societies of their time."— Mawlana Hazar Imam, Aga Khan University Convocation,Karachi, Pakistan, 2 December 2006

The State of Qatar, an emirate in the Persian Gulf region, is reinventing itself into a knowledge society. Dependant on gas and oil as its main resources, the future prosperity of the emirate’s population of 1.4 million will rely less on natural resources and more on its people. The need for an academic infrastructure was therefore evident.

The leadership of the country has spared no effort in its quest for excellence in education. With a literacy rate already in the top percentiles for both men and women, Qatar is in a hurry — and is well on its way — to meet the challenges of a dynamically changing world.

In 1995 the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, established the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. Subsequently several of the world’s leading universities were invited to establish campuses in the capital city of Doha. A unique hub covering some 2 500 acres called Education City arose, enabling both undergraduates and postgraduates to pursue high quality education and research in fields such as Medicine, Art, Design, Engineering, Business, Foreign Service, Islamic Studies and Computer Science.

The commitment to education, and in particular the study of medicine is exemplified in the establishment of an endowment of USD $7.9 billion for a specialised teaching hospital due for completion by 2011, aptly named the Sidra Medical and Research Centre. The sidra tree — an icon of Qatari history and culture — is a beacon of learning and comfort in the desert.

Traditionally the shade of the tree was a retreat for poets and scholars, who gathered beneath its branches to discuss and impart knowledge. The fruit, flowers and leaves of the sidra, whose deep roots allow it to flourish in harsh desert climates, were components in many traditional medicines.

In 2001, the medical college of Cornell University in New York established the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in Education City. It admits students to a six year medical course on a needs blind basis. The first graduates received their MD degrees in May 2008. Classes are growing in size with a future upper limit of 50 students in each year. Entrance standards are in keeping with the expectations of an Ivy League School. The main campus is based in Ithaca, New York.

The college’s undergraduate medical education curriculum in Qatar is run in parallel with that of its New York campus, with state of the art technology. Live videoconferencing links students and faculty, ensuring consistency and efficiency, while on-the-ground faculty members teach students directly. The instruction promotes family medicine, community care and patient-centred care. In addition to their teaching roles, clinical faculty are active in the Qatari medical community.

The learning environment is shaped around problem solving, self-managed learning and mentorship. Cultural differences are respected and treated with sensitivity appropriate to a traditional Muslim society. Emphasis is also placed on volunteerism, and students have contributed to many local causes including Habitat for Humanity and health promotion at fairs for local working communities.

Qatar also signalled its commitment to arts and culture with the establishment of a new Museum of Islamic Art. Due to open in November 2008, it will house artwork dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries. The museum was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect I. M. Pei, who found inspiration in the design of the 9th century Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo.

From a modest desert land that was relatively tranquil 40 years ago, Qatar has transformed itself into a thriving state that seeks to make a significant impact on the Gulf community. With a vision of a future built on the intellect of its people, the country is prepared to gracefully adapt to global change while maintaining its values and Islamic heritage.

Dr Mohamud A. Verjee, BSc (Hons), MBChB, DRCOG, CCFP, formerly a Clinical Associate Professor in family medicine at the University of Calgary, Alberta, became the inaugural Director of Primary Care at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in July 2007. Upon joining Cornell, he was invited to assume leadership as the Director of Clinical Skills, and overall Course Director for Medicine, Patients and Society in the second year MD curriculum. He is the first Ismaili Muslim on faculty at the College in Doha. Dr Verjee was also the recipient of a Continuing Achievement and Recognition of Excellence (CARE) Award in 2006, and a national Award of Excellence in 2007, both from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)