Book Review: Non-fiction/ Jihad or Itjihad by S. Irfan Habib, Harper Collins, 192p; Rs299 (Paperback)
With Jihad or Itjihad,S.Irfan Habib, a historian of scientific standing rejects the stereotypical misrepresentation of Islam, which unfortunately is in vogue these days. He identifies the strength and weakness of Islam, through facts and rational arguments-further, with delineating strongly over Itjihad, he forwards a fresh view to look upon Islam.
On a straight note, the book attempts to make sound observations on the Islam’s contribution in making the world informed and enlighted with modern attributes and sadly how those prominences lost. It makes a valid forthright observation-“While Europe was still stuck in the Dark Ages, scientists in the Islamic world were translating Aristotle, and making huge strides in astronomy, mathematics and philosophy.
Two thousand years later, the idea of 'scientific progress' seems to be locked in a hopeless war with Islam. When and how did Islam lose its enthusiasm for the workings of the natural world?”
The author traces the points of how the normal Islam came to question modern science - beginning with the visionaries of the nineteenth century and continuing with the modern day ideologues. He cites the lives and works of famous men like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, for rejecting the myth that Islam and its followers are ‘anti-modern’. His emphasis is on the correcting the perception, rather confusing the readers with abstract analysis.
Habib also uses his scholarship of history and Islam to question the ambiguous idea of 'Islamic science' as a category distinct from 'modern', 'Eurocentric' science. In an engaging and simpler style, Jihad or Itijihad challenges stereotypes, as well as propaganda. That allows making it in perspective the relationship between Islam and science today, certainly whose ground is challenging!
Book Review: Non-fiction/ Saints and Sinners by Ali Mahmood, Harper Collins, 388p; Rs599 (Hardback)
Ali Mahmood’s Saints and Sinners presents a macro views on the nation’s fortune. His finding though appears not first hand, when he enters the fray of knowing economic miracles or slump from the similar prism. Also he misses the historical truths and strength of leverages, today few new emerging nations easily offering the world.
The basic argument, this book offers: “Some countries prosper while others are left far behind. There are countries which have tried to progress at the cost of great human suffering and those which have reduced or even removed poverty. There are democracies and dictatorships, rogue nations and law-abiding ones. “
Ali Mahmood is a small time politician from Pakistan, with greater interest in global business and knowledge. He has been delving over the reasons of why some nations remain poor and why others grow filthy rich. So, Saints and Sinners comes up with some bizarre conclusions.
As such, looking at the emerging nations of Asia and Africa, he realizes that while peace, stability and good governance through the ‘rule of law’ are essential to growth and prosperity, democracy is not necessarily the best way to achieve ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. For, military leaders, from Mao to Lee Kuan Yew, have provided stability, scientific and technical excellence, economic growth and prosperity to their nations.
While endorsing the leaderships, he refuses to get informed about the consequences of arbitrary rule. This book seems written to let allow growth overriding all other components that make a system even tentatively inclusive. There is nothing like ‘Devil or Deep Sea’ to choose for the author of this book, but still he opts the way, which would be less acceptable to the informed minds. As page turner, the book holds better hope!
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in Rising Kashmir on April 16,2013)