Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
Tirana; Albania: I wanted to devote this “Quantum Note” to the thousands of men, women, and children now on their way to the House of Allah, all chanting the four-thousand-year-old Ibrahimic response to the urgent invitation of their Lord: Labayk, Allahumma Labyak, Here I am, Here I am, at thy service of our Lord, here I am, You have no partner, Indeed, all thanks and praise belongs to You, You have no partner. Instead, I find myself in Tirana, Albania, in the midst of men and women celebrating the signing of a trivial ceremony which frees Albanians from the necessity of obtaining visas to travel to the countries of the European Union (EU)—a political deal that many see as the first step to their full-fledge entry into EU.
Yet, it was neither the colorful signs nor the creative billboards and posters that hang all over the city in celebration of this self-inflicted pride and victory of sorts, but a terrible symbol of their submission to tyranny that took away the joy of writing about the aspirations and goals of those pilgrims who are now arriving in the land where they hope to revive their spiritual lives.
And it happened unexpectedly: I was walking toward the only mosque in Tirana that remains from the Ottoman era, when I noticed that the road on which I was walking was named after that man who had reiterated just yesterday that if he were to have a chance again, he would once again bomb hundreds of thousands of lives out of existence in Iraq: George W Bush Street in the heart of Tirana is yet another facet of Muslims in this fourteen hundred and thirty-first year of hijra of the Prophet from his beloved city.
Albania, where over 70% people profess Islam to be their religion, is technically no more behind an iron curtain, but wherever one goes, devastation of another kind is visible: the stigma of being Muslim. Islam and Muslims are nothing but faces of humiliation that one must not wear in public and if one has to admit one’s religion, better do it quietly, in the secure four walls of one’s home. The “in thing” is to be as chic as possible and of course, look toward Europe, even if it means selling one’s soul!
It would be hard to know how many people have any realistic idea of the deeds of that man called George W. Bush, whose name kept appearing at every intersection as I walked, and given their lack of access to English, I know not many would even know what he wrote in his just-published autobiography, Decision Point. Yet, there is no escape from the fact that the man whose name is visible on this main road of Tirana is not going to leave Albanian mind, even though he himself has now admitted “mistakes over Iraq”, while shamelessly insisting that “it was the right thing to do”. Bush also defends the Guantánamo Bay detention center and the use of torture! So much for living in the twenty-first century.
Yet, it is not just Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the disclosures about the simmering new world conflict that is bound to produce a bundle of money for the ex-president: Iran. And it so happened that my walking companion on this damp winter evening was a man from Iran known for his learning and insights and we had just been talking about the ever-worsening Iranian situation. By all accounts, Iran stands at a threshold of internal and external calamities and thus Bush’s disclosures about Iran appeared ominous. He considered bombing Iran and Syria and he repeats US stand: “One thing is certain. The United States should never allow Iran to threaten the world with a nuclear bomb.”
Yet, it is not Bush’s book that is worrisome in the case of Iran. It is the simmering internal volcano of Iran that is the most troublesome aspect for all who understand the geo-political implications of the internal collapse of a country which regained a certain degree of respect and strength through an Islamic revolution of a unique kind and where now that same revolution seems to have run its course and given birth to a widespread disillusionment, leading to secularization of the Iranian youth. It was not just what my companion was saying about the Iranian situation that evoked this gloomy state; I had experienced the discontent in Iran first hand on two of my recent trips. As is the case with most such situations, it is the increasing self-centeredness of Ahmadinejad and a certain combination of power politics that is now threatening all gains of the Iranian Revolution. And of course those who wish harm for Iran are exploiting this internal bickering to the full measure.
To be sure, Muslims all over the world in this troublesome fifteenth century of their existence are beset with internal and external problems of such mega-proportions that to see the beautiful faces of young Albanians in that historic mosque was a real joy and comfort for the heart rent asunder on this gloomy wet winter night. The looming scenarios of wars, conflicts, and bloodbaths receded from the consciousness as the young Imam led us into the serenity of the night prayer with his extraordinary recitation of a surah that shakes initiated hearts: Suratul Balad.
The mosque was almost full with extremely old and young Albanians. These young Albanians, who have rediscovered the beauty of their religion, are unlike young men and women one finds in the traditional lands of Islam. These are assertive, serious, pious men and women who know what they believe and why they believe. Many have chosen to grow beards and wear hijab, they understand the harsh realities of these awesome times and yet remain full of certitude; in their certitude and strength of faith one finds glimmers of hope and joy.
Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science (www.cis-ca.org), Canada, and editor of
Islam & Science, a semi-annual journal of Islamic perspectives on science and civilization. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry (University of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1983), and then left the field of experimental science to fully devote himself to study Islam, its spiritual, intellectual and scientific traditions.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). During 1990-1999, he pursued his research and study on various aspects of Islam in Pakistan, where he also worked as Director, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) between 1991-96 and as Director, Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1998-99).
During 1999-2001, Dr. Iqbal was Program Director (Muslim World) for the Science-Religion Course Program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), Berkeley, USA.
Dr. Iqbal has published books and papers on the relationship between Islam and science, Islam and the West, the contemporary situation of Muslims, and the history of Islamic science.
His publications include Islam and Science, God, Life and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives , Science and Islam, Dawn in Madinah: A Pilgrim’s Passage , The Making of Islamic Science (IBT, 2009) and a few more titles.
He is the General Editor of the forthcoming seven-volume Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, the first English language reference work on the Qur’an based on fourteen centuries of Muslim reflection and scholarship. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker