Ishmael, Our Brother by James Mayfield: What I learned

Assalam O Alaikum,
Last week, the students of Marreekh and Shams had a discussion on an article by the Professor of Political Science at the University of Utah, James B. Mayfield. Titled Ishmael, Our Brother, it puts forth the views and perception of a Christian of the Latter-day Saints on the Muslim world, its rich history and the Islamic way of life. It revolves around the similarities between Christians/Jews and Muslims and the untold achievements and discoveries of the Muslims. Not only did I witness Islam from a different point of view, but along the way I also came across knowledge and facts that I was unaware of previously. A few of these were:

  • The author mentions the Promises of Abraham, scriptures in the Book of Genesis about the promises and commandments that God made to Abraham and his descendants. He noted that the promises were applicable to both Ismael and Ishaq. For example, Allah commanded Ibrahim that every man child among you must be circumcised, a custom of the people of both Ismael and Ishaq.
  • Another piece of information I gained from this text was the advanced medical knowledge that Muslim physicians possessed. I had no idea that they knew about the location and function of the eye muscles, pupillary movements, the laryngeal nerve, the difference between measles and smallpox, blood circulation and mastectomy for cancer during the 9th–13th century!
  • Similar was the development in the field of mathematics by the Arab civilization. They had conceived the decimal system, algebra and its relation to geometry, advancements in spherical trigonometry, logarithm tables and solutions to quadratic equations.
  • Studies by Arab astronomers established the fact that the earth was a sphere floating in space, about 400 years before Columbus did. They calculated the length of a terrestrial degree and very accurately determined the circumference and diameter of the Earth. They calculated the length of a stellar year, charted positions and orbits of stars and planets, knew at what time Mercury would cross the face of the Sun and corrected mistakes in Ptolemy’s astronomical system and developed a navigational astrolabe.

This gives clear evidence that major works by renowned scientists and the European Renaissance was initiated and stimulated by the technological advancements of the Islamic civilization. The great contributions of the Muslims were a result of the teachings and morals of the Quran and Our Prophet Muhammed(s.a.w.). Religious values and concepts are not just a segment of our lives, they are the driving force behind life and reality itself and, to quote James Mayfield, “must permeate our lives from dawn to nightfall, where every activity is religiously oriented.” We must strive to embody the message of Allah in every part of our lives and understand the moral responsibility for our actions. It is this very realisation that must be instilled in every Muslim man, woman and child if we ever hope to recover from our current downfall and regain our position as the strong and successful culture that we once were.


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