Speechs in the year
Tarikh/Date 	: 	17/06/94 

    I  wish to thank the organising committee for giving me
the opportunity to be here today and to officially open  the
World Islamic Civilisation Festival 1994, which is the first
of  its  kind  to  be  held in this country and probably the
region also.
2.    A festival of this nature  should  help  to  enlighten
Muslims  and non-Muslims alike regarding the achievements of
the Muslims in the past.  But that is not  the  main  reason
for  this festival.  The more important objective is to show
to Muslims today that if they are prepared  to  acquire  the
relevant  knowledge  and use it for the benefit of the Ummah
it  is  not  impossible  to  revive  the   glory   and   the
achievements of the Islamic civilisation.
3.   After the death of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,
Islam  spread  widely  outside  the  Arab world, and finally
covered about three-quarters of the  known  surface  of  the
earth  then.    Though  military strength and sophistication
played a role, the lasting contribution of the  Muslims  was
in  the  fields of mathematics, science, medicine, astronomy
and other areas of  human  knowledge.    This  was  possible
because  in  the  early  period  of  Islam,  the  quest  for
knowledge was not restricted by  narrow  interpretations  of
the  religion.    In other words, the early Muslims followed
closely the  examples  of  the  Prophet  in  leadership,  in
acquisition of wealth and knowledge while not neglecting the
performances   of  the  compulsory  ibadah.    It  was  when
knowledge and skills for the advancement of the Muslims were
neglected that decline set in for the great civilisation the
Muslims had built.  Attempts were repeatedly made to  revive
the glory of Islamic civilisation after the decline but they
all  failed  because  those  who  fear that worldly progress
would result in neglect of religion insisted  and  persisted
in dividing knowledge into the religious and the secular and
regarding  or  condemning the so-called secular knowledge as
inimical to Islam.  Coincidentally, it was about  this  time
that  in  the  Christian world the church was separated from
the state, with the consequent loss of power by the  church.
It   was  felt  that  secular  knowledge  could  reduce  the
influence of religious leaders on the state and on  society.
This  may  be  denied  but  we  know of many instances where
professionally-trained people are persuaded to give up their
professions in favour of what is  regarded  as  a  religious
4.   Clearly if we want to regain the glorious age of Islam,
we  have  a  great need to learn the history of the founding
and the spread of Islam.  History is the  greatest  teacher.
Unfortunately  because  of the downgrading of knowledge that
is   regarded   as   non-religious,     Muslim    historians
concentrated  almost  exclusively on the contribution of the
spiritual to the successes of the Muslims.    On  the  other
hand,  Western  historians  tend to be biased.   We are thus
left  with  the  artifacts  and  relics   of   the   Islamic
civilisation  in  order  to  learn  and  to assess the other
causes for the early successes of the Muslims.  Still  there
is  much  to  be  gleaned  from  these  which can help us to
reconstruct the past and teach us about how the greatness of
Muslim civilisation was achieved and how  we  can  go  about
trying  to revive it.
5.     But first there is a great need to debunk some of the
beliefs   which   had  contributed   towards   the  decline.
Principal among these is the teaching that the world is  not
meant for the believers.   It is meant for the non-believers
to enjoy.   While some things which the non-believers  enjoy
are things which Muslims should not hanker after, is it true
that we should also not benefit  from  the  abundant  bounty
that  Allah  Subhanahu  wa  Ta'ala  has  bestowed  upon this
planet?     The  world  is  not  a  gift  of  Allah  to  the
non-believers  but it is a gift to  the  believers.   Not to
appreciate and not to use this gift seems to be particularly
ungrateful and  Allah  does  not  like  those  who  are  not
grateful,  not just for His  blessings but for anything good
that is done to us, even  by mere man.
6.     In  no  other  religion  is  there  so much stress on
observing our surroundings; the fields,  the  mountains  and
the  seas  and the bounty they hold for man; the animals and
the plants and how they contribute to life; the rain and the
sunshine and how they bring to life that which we would have
assumed to be dead.
7.   Does observation mean that we should only make a casual
glance and then mechanically praise Allah?  Is it  not  true
that  the more we observe, the deeper we study the creations
of Allah the more we would be amazed  and  beholden  to  His
greatness?     For  while  our  studies  into  the  minutest
structure of matter, the atoms and beyond can contribute  to
our   understanding  of  how  all  matters  are  formed  and
structured,  we  can  never  discover  why   they   are   so
structured;  why  they  function  as they do; why they react
with each other and form  substances  which  are  ever  more
complex;  and  most  puzzling of all, why they contribute to
life on earth.  We can explain at length as to how all these
happen: but we can never  understand  or  explain  why  they
happen:  why  one atom of oxygen combining with two atoms of
hydrogen, two invisible gases, would form the ordinary water
that is so tangible and so essential to life?  Why not atoms
of other gases?  Why water?  Why is water a source  of  life
and   its  sustenance?     We,  through  the  most  thorough
observation, i.e. study, can understand and unravel how  all
these  matter  and  compounds  and actions and reaction take
place, but we can never answer the question why they are  so
or  they  do so.  The only conclusion we can make is that it
must be a power beyond human understanding, it must be  God,
it must be Allah.
8.   Surely our studies would make us appreciate and believe
in Allah even more strongly.  Surely the deeper and the more
extensive  the knowledge, the greater would be the faith for
what we discover through our  studies  to  be  even  greater
miracles  than  we  thought  after a casual glance; miracles
which only Allah can create.
9.    Yet Muslims are afraid  to  study  all  the  mysteries
around  them,  to  discover the wonders of Allah's creation,
and to utilise them even as we utilise  plants  and  animals
for food and all the other creations of Allah to sustain and
enhance the quality of our life.  Because we do not study in
depth,  Muslims  today  have  to rely on the results and the
discoveries of those of other faiths.  Today many of us  are
totally   dependent  on  the  results  of  the  non-Muslims'
application of their  knowledge  for  our  food,  transport,
defence, clothing and the roof over our heads.  Indeed, even
in  the performance of our religious duties we depend on the
non-Muslims.  If this life, this bounty on earth is not  for
us,  then  why do we share the discoveries and inventions of
the non-believers who study the creation of Allah,  and  use
their knowledge to better their life on earth?
10.    Yet  we  know  that  during the glorious centuries of
Islamic civilisation,  it  was  the  Muslims  who  led,  who
discovered the bounties of Allah through their learning, and
made  them  available  to  the  non-Muslims  then.   And the
Muslims led because they were very advanced in all fields of
learning, in the  sciences,  in  medicine,  in  mathematics,
biology, astronomy and in a whole lot of other disciplines.
11.       Unless  and  until we stop dividing knowledge into
the  religious  and  the  secular,   unless  we  regard  all
knowledge   as   faith  enhancing  and  therefore  not  only
permissible but vital to the Muslims and their faith, we are
never ever going to rebuild  Islamic  civilisation.    Worst
still,  we  are  going to remain in the modern equivalent of
the Dark Ages.
12.  And so the first step towards an Islamic renaissance is
to debunk the belief that the world  is  not  for  us,  that
knowledge,  other  than  spiritual knowledge, is secular and
must be proscribed.    Instead,  such  knowledge  should  be
sought  for  they  can truly strengthen faith and revive the
greatness of the Islamic civilisation.
13.  We know the great scholars  of  the  golden  period  of
Islamic  civilisation  were  not  just  specialists in their
fields but  almost  invariably  they  were  learned  in  the
teachings  of  Islam.    They were thus able to relate their
knowledge to their faith.   Today Muslims  either  know  the
teachings  of Islam exclusively or they are learned in other
subjects, equally exclusively.  They are therefore unable to
relate the one with the other.   As  a  result  they  either
become spiritually fanatical and reject anything they do not
know  as  being  secular  and  proscribed, or having studied
non-religious subjects they find themselves unable to defend
their  knowledge  as  it  relates  to  their  faith.    When
challenged  by  religious  fanatics  as  to the relevance of
their  knowledge  to  Islam  they  are  at  a  loss  for  an
acceptable  answer.  They often feel guilty or alternatively
they reject religion because of their inability to reconcile
what they have learnt with the teachings of Islam.   For  as
long  as  this  dichotomy  remains,  there  will always be a
dearth of scholars, of subjects, which are not  specific  to
the  faith  among  Muslims,  thus  condemning the Muslims to
backwardness and preventing the achievement  of  a  glorious
Islamic civilisation.
14.               But when we talk of recreating the Islamic
civilisation we do not mean to build  a  fair  copy  of  the
Muslims' world from the 7th century until the decline of the
Turkish  Sultanate.    Even  when  we  are  enjoined to seek
guidance from the Sunnah of the Prophet we are not  expected
to  reproduce  exactly  the achievements and the life of the
Prophet.  Indeed the golden period of  Islamic  civilisation
was  not  brought  about by the reproduction of the life and
times of the Prophet in Makkah and  Madinah.    The  Islamic
civilisation  was the result of following the true teachings
of Islam which the people in the  lifetime  of  the  Prophet
were  not  able  to  benefit from fully because of time.  In
size and in the span  of  knowledge  and  achievements,  the
Islamic  civilisation that was built after the demise of the
Prophet was  far  greater  than  the  Muslim  world  in  the
Prophet's  time.  This is because the application of Islamic
teachings and creed over the centuries  was  able  to  bring
about the maximum results.
15.      Similarly,  the  building  of  the  modern  Islamic
civilisation should be in the context of the achievements of
humanity  at  the  present  time.      It   should   reflect
contemporary  life and thoughts which are relevant to modern
times but still compatible with the teachings of Islam.   If
we  believe  that  Islam  is  for  all ages, then we will be
contradicting  this   belief,   if   we   consider   Islamic
civilisation  possible  only in conditions prevailing in the
7th century of the Christian era in Madinah.
16.   But  even  if  we  have  disabused  ourselves  of  the
restrictive   compartmentalisation  of  knowledge  into  the
religious and the secular, and if because of  that  we  have
the knowledge compatible with modern civilisation, there are
still  many conditions to be met before a great civilisation
can be achieved.  Chief among these is the establishment  of
a   workable   system   of   administration  and  Government
compatible with both Islam and the needs  of  modern  times.
Again it must be remembered that the forms of governments in
the  Muslim  empires  were not identical with the Madinah or
the Makkah Governments of the Prophet, peace  be  upon  him.
Many  different  forms of governments were practised without
in any way making these un-Islamic.  It is not the  form  of
Government  that matters.  It is whether they are compatible
with Islam or not.
17.   It is sad that anarchy  or  at  least  bad  Government
prevails  today  in  most  Muslim  countries.   We are quite
unstable.    Unseemly  struggles  for   power   take   place
everywhere,  resulting in millions being killed or forced to
migrate, properties  being  destroyed,  anarchy  prevailing,
food  being  so  short  that  death  from starvation becomes
almost a regular feature of some Muslim  countries.    Still
the  fighting  and  the  conflicts  go on simply because one
person or one group wants to grab power.  It is to our utter
shame  that the faithful have to appeal to the non-believers
to help bring about peace or to feed the starving.
18.  Are we incapable of administering our own people?   Are
we  incapable  of  using  modern  concepts of Government, of
administering  justice,  of  dealing  with  an   ever   more
sophisticated  society  with its complex social and economic
imperatives?  If we look around, it would seem so.   For  so
many  Muslim  countries are unstable, insecure and unable to
develop.  Yet the modern systems of Government are  more  in
keeping   with   the   sunnah   of   the  Prophet  than  the
authoritarian governments  which  existed  during  the  past
Islamic civilisation.
19.   Of course we need not accept systems developed by non-
Muslims wholesale.  Like everything else there are good  and
bad  points.   And the bad points can be as damaging as any.
We see anarchy and moral collapse in the Western democractic
system which has brought about their decline.   But  we  can
avoid  them and practise only those that are not against our
own beliefs and values.  But we cannot recreate the  society
as  it  existed  in  the  Prophet's time or even those which
prospered during the golden age of Islamic civilisation as a
prerequisite for the revival of the golden age.
20.           The civilisation that we build must not be for
the purpose of confronting other societies or civilisations.
It  should  contribute  towards  the  sum  total  of   human
progress.    It  should  show  the compatibility and balance
between the spiritual and the material, between progress and
moral values, between religion and  worldly  concerns.    It
should  provide  the  alternative  to  a  world  that has so
obviously lost its direction.  It should be a viable and  an
acceptable  alternative,  based on reasoned arguments rather
than blind faith in certain tendentious  interpretations  of
21.    Islam  can still show the way.  There can be a modern
Islamic civilisation which is not an attempt to  reconstruct
life  in  the  Arabian  Peninsular  in the 7th century nor a
slavish copy of a decadent Western system.  There can  be  a
modern  Islamic  civilisation  which  can  provide  both the
spiritual and material answers to modern man's needs.  If we
say that these are but dreams, that  they  are  worldly  and
irrelevant, that the only way is to recreate the life in the
7th century, then we should accept that Muslims will forever
be  oppressed  and  impoverished.    In that state we can be
separated  from  our  faith.    If  therefore  the  faithful
decrease  in  number  and  in  some  places  are  wiped  out
completely, then we must only blame ourselves.  It is we who
have sinned, for we insist on doing what is obviously  wrong
because we dare not question the correctness or otherwise of
the popular contemporary interpretation of our faith.
22.    Perhaps  it  is  too  much to expect that our Islamic
Civilisation Festival would awaken us all  from  the  stupor
that  we are in.  But we would be failing in our duty to our
religion if we do not try to seize the opportunity to  learn
from  the  lessons  that the history of Islamic Civilisation
holds for us.  There is more to this exhibition than to bask
in the glow of  a  great  past.    Those  who  harp  on  the
greatness  of  the  past are in fact admitting and accepting
their  present  decline.    This  exhibition    is  not  for
reflected glory.  It  is  a  reminder  and
lesson  on  how  a great faith can lead to greatness, to the
establishment of one of the greatest, if  not  the  greatest
civilisation on earth.
23.    What has been done once by man can be done again.  It
is for us to decide.
24.  Insya-Allah, we will awaken and we will decide.
25.    With  this,  I  declare  open   the   World   Islamic
Civilisation Festival 1994.