"The second great historical lesson to be learnt is that the Muslim world has always been wide open to every aspect of human existence. The sciences, society, art, the oceans, the environment and the cosmos have all contributed to the great moments in the history of Muslim civilisations. The Qur’an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God’s creation"(Closing Address by His Highness Aga Khan IV at the "Musée-Musées" Round Table Louvre Museum, Paris, France, October 17th 2007)
"The tapestry of Islamic history is studded with jewels of civilization; these jewels poured forththeir light and beauty; great statesmen, great philosophers, great doctors, great astronomers; but these individuals, these precious stones were worked into a tapestry, whose dominant theme was Islam, and this theme remained dominant regardless of the swallowing up of foreign lands, foreign cultures, foreign languages and foreign people"(Aga Khan IV, 30 Jan 1970, Hyderabad, Pakistan)
It is no exaggeration to say that the original Christian universities of Latin West, at Paris, Bologna and Oxford, indeed the whole European renaissance, received a vital influx of new knowledge from Islam -- an influx from which the later western colleges and universities, including those of North Africa, were to benefit in turn"(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)
"The Muslim world, once a remarkable bastion of scientific and humanist knowledge, a rich and self-confident cradle of culture and art, has never forgotten its past"(Aga Khan IV, 27th May 1994, Cambridge, Massachusets, U.S.A.)
"That quest for a better life, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike, must lead inevitably to the Knowledge Society which is developing in our time. The great and central question facing the Ummah of today is how it will relate to the Knowledge Society of tomorrow.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."(Aga Khan IV, Speech, 2nd December 2006, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan)
"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)
Exhibition explores early Islamic science
13th Dec 2010
Oxford University, UK
Detail of a Persian astrolabe by Muhammed al-Yazdi made in 1647, from the Museum of the History of Science's collection
A new exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science explores the world of early Islamic scientific instrument makers as they sought a delicate balance between function and beauty.
‘Al-Mizan: Sciences and the Arts in the Islamic World’ marks the 25th anniversary of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and is open until 20 March 2011. 'Al-Mizan' is the Arabic word for 'balance'.
For hundreds of years Arabic was the primary language of science and mathematics. Islamic scholars made incredible advancements and scientific discoveries, and built the foundations of modern science. These intellectual achievements of scholars in the Islamic world were matched by the emergence of a highly distinctive visual and artistic culture.
Al-Mizan explores the connections between the sciences and arts in Muslim societies. Highlights include ornate Medieval manuscripts, decorative metalwork and ceramics on loan from the British Museum, the Bodleian Library and the Ashmolean Museum, along with rarely-shown objects from the Khalili Collection. Objects from the Museum of the History of Science’s own unique collection of Islamic scientific instruments are only on display.
(Rather than projecting backwards our modern idea of science to discover past achievements, we've looked at science as culture in its contemporary context: Dr Stephen Johnston)
Dr Stephen Johnston, curator of the exhibition, said: “A recent flurry of exhibitions and television series about Islam and science has emphasised the Islamic contribution to the story of modern science and technology. With that perspective now so well-established, we wanted to take a different view. Rather than projecting backwards our modern idea of science to discover past achievements, we've looked at science as culture in its contemporary context.
“By highlighting the artistry and decorative beauty of our Islamic scientific instruments we recover the medieval connections between science and the arts, and show that they were not the essentially different endeavours that they are so often now assumed to be.”
Dr Farhan Nizami, Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, said: “We welcome the opportunity, as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, to collaborate with the Museum of the History of Science, which has done so much to preserve and promote the Islamic heritage in Oxford and beyond. We hope this exhibition will contribute to a wider appreciation of the beauties of Islamic art and encourage scholarship in this field.”
In Shia Islam, intellect is a key component of faith. Intellect allows us to understand the creation of God: Aga Khan IV(2008)
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 Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)