Muslims and The Frontiers of Knowledge in the 21st Century

by Mohamed M El-Gomati Published on: 26th July 2009

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Muslims and The Frontiers of Knowledge in the 21st Century

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The Institute of Islamic Understanding in Malaysia (IKIM) organizes an International Conference on the Muslims and the Frontiers of Knowledge in the 21st Century: Issues, Prospects and Challenges on the 28th and 29th of July 2009 in Kuala Lumpur.

This international conference will discuss 8 themes comprising 28 papers by speakers from all over the world including Malaysia, France, United Kingdom, Palestine, Pakistan, USA. Turkey, Macedonia, Egypt and Iran.

Professor Mohamed El-Gomati, trustee and the Deputy Chair of the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation (FSTC) and professor of Electronic Optics at the University of York (UK), presents a keynote lecture in the first plenary session on Learning From the Past, Charting the Future.

Abstract of Professor El-Gomati’s lecture:

This paper examines the contribution made by scientists who lived under Muslim civilisation during the medieval period. The historical period of scientific development between the 8th and 16th centuries (also known as ‘the Golden Age’), was one where scholars of science, technology and the arts contributed greatly to the advancement of scientific knowledge and in turn, the later development of modern science and indeed modern civilisation.

Significantly, recent research has unearthed an abundance of evidence, which shows that many of the inventions and discoveries of scientists and scholars during this period predated similar ones typically attributed to Western scientists. It is of considerable note that Ibn-al-Haytham, known in the West as Alhazen (b. 965 – d. 1039), who famously excelled in the field of optics, is now widely credited as one of the earliest pioneers of the modern scientific method. It may also come as a surprise to many that a great number of these scholars were neither Arabs nor Muslims, and often of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Whilst in recent decades, the efforts of these scientists are now beginning to gain the rightful recognition they deserve, far less is known about the circumstances which allowed such great individuals to emerge and flourish. This paper intends to focus on this latter point, whilst also attempting to develop an understanding of the aims and values that characterised the science practiced at that time. Finally, this paper also attempts to identify the root causes and conditions which led to the rise of science during the ‘Golden Age’, whilst trying to pinpoint the factors, which ultimately contributed to its subsequent decline.

Aims and scope of the conference Muslims and the Frontiers of Knowledge in the 21st Century: Issues, Prospects and Challenges

While the overall human wisdom may not necessarily improve, there is no denying that, because of the dynamism which arises out of the evanescent nature of man’s worldly life, human knowledge as a whole does develop. Such development of human knowledge is expected to continue through the 21st century. How and to what extent such development impacts the various dimensions of human life can only be properly assessed in a manner that is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. And Muslims living in this century and ahead cannot avoid addressing the aforementioned as well.

This conference is aimed at:

1. identifying emerging new fields of studies, as well as various significant developments in the existing important branches of knowledge, in the 21st century;

2. deliberating on the orientations of such fields and branches as well as the problems, challenges and opportunities they pose to Muslims living in the 21st century and ahead;

3.charting effective courses of action in dealing with such problems, challenges and opportunities.

Click here for the conference program.


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