Fruits for the Week

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A thousand years ago, an extremely valuable heritage was formed in Uzbekistan, Southern Russia. This invaluable heritage proved to be scientific find, the foundations of which can still be used in this age. Amongst the Islamic intellectuals responsible for producing philosophical and scientific theories during the glorious age of Islam which became the bridge between ancient Greek civilization and the risen Europe is Abu Ali Al-Husain Ibn Abdullah Ibn Sina. He was born in the year 980 AD in the village of Afshana, near Bukhara, in Uzbekistan.

According to Abdullah Othman: “In the medical field, Ibn Sina wrote extensively using the methodology of scientific inquiry, which is not merely speculative in discussing matters pertaining to research and experiments. Some examples pertain to tuberculosis, infectious diseases, issues relating to water and earth as well as the relationship between psychology and health. He also identified around 760 medications including meningitis, for instance, as one such example.”

When Ibn Sina was 17 years old, he succeeded in treating an ailment suffered by the King of Bukhara, Nub Ibn Mansur, which other renown doctors at that time failed to do. King Mansur wanted to reward Ibn Sina with gifts but he only requested for permission to use the royal library which was filled with unique and rare books.

Ibn Sina’s greatest contribution was his work, Qanun fi al-Tibb, a book on medicine. It is a medical encyclopedia that contains terminologies used as reference in the West for about six decades. It was also used as a textbook to further modern medicine. Ibn Sina possessed such an extensive collection of chemistry books that he had to decline the order to go to the palace to discuss medical theories because it would have to take 400 camels to transport his books to the palace.

On Ibn Sina’s contribution to the growth of world knowledge today, according to Abdullah Othman: “It is considerably impossible for contemporary science to exist without the contributions of an icon like him, a man who was also known as Avicenna in Latin. His contribution in studying early civilizations can be improved till modern times even though a large part of these are obsolete. Despite that, the basis, concepts, ways, as well as the methods can still be used today. I feel that without his contributions, it is unlikely that treasury of knowledge as we know – will exist today.”

Islam’s glorious age produced many intellectuals like Ibn Sina who contributed to the advancement of world science as well as philosophy through the foundations he built and practiced. The culture of universal science in Islamic civilizations awed many Western scholars. It showed that Islamic practices were dynamic and capable of contributing to world civilization. Given this, a civilization cannot exist forever if the Muslim community keeps a closed mind and refuse to embrace knowledge from other civilizations.

The fact that Ibn Sina possessed an outstanding or special talent cannot be denied. Perhaps the environment during his time allowed such individuals to exist. How can such individuals exist in these times? His ability to understand other civilizations is admirable. As a Muslim, we have to be open to the Western, eastern or even African civilizations and explore how it can be adapted to the Islamic community.

In term of pursuing knowledge, this should not be restricted to fields relating to economical values but also knowledge that can benefit contemporary civilization and the coming one in the wider sense, for both self and the community. Can man today contribute to the growth of knowledge like how previous thinkers did? Can the Islamic community become producers instead of simply users, that is, in contributing to knowledge and scientific finds that can enhance the economic position of the Islamic community?

Ibn Sina summarized, “I prefer a short life with expanse to a long narrowness”. Ibn Sina died in the year 1036 AD, at the young age of 58. He was buried in Hamadan, an area that is open to visitors. A foundation known as the Ibn Sina International Foundation whose head office is in Tushken, a city in Uzbekistan, was formed to commemorate his deeds and contributions. Ibn Sina’s influence is deep and lasted through time. His influence reached Spain and influenced another great Islamic thinker named Ibn Rusd.

by Abdul Shaheed Drew