Tuesday, 1 January 2008

New Year

Happy New Year to all of the people that read this blog (that is both of you). I have never been a huge New Year person as they tend towards the weird rather than the fun and the desire to drink to excess has passed. I also suppose that I tend to see New Year as the beginning of September and not January. This is the point when I make my resolutions with January as a chance to asses the progress.

At this time of year the leaders of the world give a speech about how they would like the world to change in the coming year so I thought that I would have a go. In 2008 I would like to see the faith of Islam try to regain its position as a a sponsor of the arts, literature and science. In 1324 Mansa Masu helped set up University of Sankore in Timbuktu. A university and centre of teaching that contained 25 000 students. It had a huge collection of books and at the centre of a trading route bringing in ideas to be discussed and experimented on. The curriculum was divided into 4 levels. The first was the Qu'ranic school that required all students to be able to read and write Arabic as well as to learn the Koran. The second was general studies that including science, maths, geography, history, physics, astronomy, chemistry, trade school and business ethics as well as advanced Koranic studies. The third level or superior degree involved research usually in philosophy and the fourth allowed people to wither work as professors in Timbuktu or to travel to other cities and start places or learning there. This is not the only example that I can use. Suleiman the Magnificent (1494 -1566) was responsible for most of the current architecture that is part of Istanbul's sky line as well as paying up to 600 artists and artisans to undertake art and artistic projects. He codified a system of laws that stood for about 3 centuries that ran alongside Shari'ah or Sacred Law. One law raised the status of those with other religions to such an extent that Christian serfs migrated into Islamic held countries as they would be treated better. Schools were introduced to educate children in subjects such as grammar, logic, syntax, philosophy, astronomy and geometry. My challenge to the Islamic faith is to try and return to a time when religion was allowed to flourish alongside other activities and it does not need to be an either or situation.

Happy New Year

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