August 12, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10134

Indian Islamic Scholar On Islamic Scholars Of Ottoman Caliphate 'Did Not Allow Printing Presses To Be Imported From Europe For Close To Four Centuries, Heralding Muslim Backwardness In Education That Continues'

August 12, 2022
Special Dispatch No. 10134

In a recent article, Indian Islamic scholar Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef criticized the Ulema ("Islamic scholars") for leading the Muslim world into backwardness by impacting the Ottoman and Mughal rulers and by continuing to foster a sense of victimhood among Muslims, preventing them from thinking rationally about current issues.

His article, titled "Role Of Ulema In Bringing Down Muslims From The Height Of Enlightenment To The Morass Of All-Round Backwardness: The Imperatives For Muslims Today," was published by, a reformist website based in India. Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef is an academic at Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.

In his article, Dr. Ghitreef notes how the rulers of Islamic Spain ("Andalusia") and the Abbasid Caliphate in Iraq fostered research and writing in the material sciences and translated into Arabic major works that led to progress among Muslims at the time. However, unlike in these two regions, the ulema of the Ottoman Caliphate, as well as that of the Mughal dynasties played a negative role, thereby preventing new investments in education, especially in the material sciences.

The Islamic writer also observes that Ulema are fostering anti-Jewish and other conspiracy theories and adds: "Muslims have been waging an uncalled-for jihad against their real or imagined enemies for the past two centuries, to which Ulama and community leaders had pushed and led them in..."

Following are excerpts from his article:

"After The Mongol Invasion On Muslim World And Destruction Spree In Ninth Century, There Was A Growing Fascination With Occult Sciences, Astrology, Sorcery, Black Magic, Witchcraft, Superstition, And Incantation Among The Muslims"

"Islamic Spain (Andalusia) was a unique state because it did marvellous things in its zenith of political power. In particular, in the reigns of the caliphs; Abdur Rahman Al-Salis, (the third) Hisham, Nasir, Al-Hakam, and of course, caliph Al-Mansoor the great. These were the great sultans of Islamic Spain politically and on cultural and civilizational planes too.

"During their rule, Muslims (Arabs), the ruling minority of the country, had been doing best to promote all kinds of knowledge, religious and secular. This resulted in phenomenal advancement in philosophy, logic, and translation, from Greek arts and sciences on the one hand and a great leap in agriculture, trade, and industry. Bringing about an era of prosperity, happiness and well-being in the lives of ordinary people. They had built big and beautiful cities full of significant buildings, palaces, grand mosques, seminaries, libraries, etc. For instance, Zahra city on the outskirt of Cordova, Granada, and Seville can be cited. To their model seminaries and great seats of learning, students and learners would flow and come from neighbouring France, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Holland, Florence, Italy, etc...."

"Likewise was the Abbasid caliphate also, which had established a Darul Hikmat (Wisdom house) in the reign of Al-Mamoon, the learned and intellectual caliph, very fond of Greek knowledge. In the first phase of the Abbasid caliphate, Baghdad was the abode of philosophers, translators, writers, and experts in medicine, astronomy, geography, mathematics, geometry, trigonometry, physics, chemistry, history, literature, etc. Scholars and experts in various branches of human knowledge come from India, Egypt, Rome, Greece, Anatolia, Syria, etc. Their academic works were welcomed, translated into Arabic, and applauded...."

"Muslim Spain and Abbasids were rivals and had no loved lost, yet both were good competitors in rich mosaic culture and development. After the Mongol invasion on Muslim world and destruction spree in ninth century, there was a growing fascination with occult sciences, astrology, sorcery, black magic, witchcraft, superstition, and incantation among the Muslims. Experimental medicine was replaced with occultism and divination. Therefore, the movement of rational sciences among the Muslims under this wizardry shadow died down. They burned the books of great philosophers and great minds of rational sciences, as happened with Ibn Hazm and others."

"[T]he Ottomans Blindly Following Their Rigid And Narrow-Minded Shaikh-ul-Islam [Scholar Of Islam] Committed The Crime To Shutting Down In 1580, An Observatory [The World's First] Established By Noted Astronomer Taqiuddin In Istanbul"

"This Andalusian and Mid-Eastern rich legacy is the only thing Muslims can proudly present to the world today as an enormous contribution to world civilization. For, unlike both of them, the Ottomans, unfortunately, in their four century-long sultanate and the great Mughals in their three century-long rule [in India], did not contribute much to world civilization. Under the influence of Ulema, they built only mosques, mausoleums, forts, splendid palaces, and pompous superfluous things such as the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, and Jama Masjid Delhi in India and similar many monumental Ottoman palaces, forts, and grand mosques in Istanbul and Ankara.

"Both the empires did not leave good examples of human civilizational works as good seminaries, great seats of learning, best libraries, wisdom houses, research centers, and observatories. Contrary to that, the Ottomans blindly following their rigid and narrow-minded Shaikh-ul-Islam [scholar of Islam] committed the crime to shutting down in 1580, an observatory established by noted astronomer Taqiuddin in Istanbul. It was the world's largest observatory.

"It was demolished due to the insistence of traditional Ulama and public support. Due to their strong notion that this unnecessary interference in the divine secrets because of the existence of the observatory, there has been an outbreak of great plague, so in order to prevent this, it is necessary to demolish the observatory brick by brick – (Reference: Rashid Shaz Kitab-ul-Arooj, p. 2 Milli Publications, New Delhi 2012)."

"Had Mughals And Other Muslim Dynasties Before Them Invested Their Resources In The Promotion Of Scientific Research And Technological Advancement... Their Heirs And The Muslim Community At Large Would Have Been In Better Standing In India"

"And their counterparts in India, Bakhtiyar Khilji, to be more specific, is accused, rightly or wrongly, of setting ablaze the ancient Nalanda Vidyalaya (mini university). Many mosques built by Mughals in India are vulnerable now to being demolished, ransacked, recaptured, or modified as temples by right-winger Hindutva forces ruling the country nowadays.

Since, after Babri [mosque was handed over to the Hindus by the Supreme Court of India], now they are hell-bent on snatching Gyanvapi masjid in Varanasi and Mathura Shahi Eidgah. They are not even in a mood to spare secular monuments like Taj Mahal at Agra and Qutub Minar in Delhi too. In coming days, the threats are looming large upon these monumental Mughal constructions because the vulnerable Muslim community is not in a position to defend and protect them from vandalism if done in connivance of state machinery and national media.

Mughals spent on monuments and mosques, not on education (Photo: Taj Mahal, Agra)

"Had Mughals and other Muslim dynasties before them invested their resources in the promotion of scientific research and technological advancement, instead of their great expenditure on construction, fine arts, poetry, paintings, and dance and music parties, their heirs and the Muslim community at large would have been in better standing in India and in the world today.

"Ulema in Khilafat-e-Osmania did not allow printing presses to be imported from Europe for close to four centuries, heralding Muslim backwardness in education that continues till today. Even the great scientists and philosophers and theologians of the Abbasid period and Muslim Spain were often called heretics and their books burned and destroyed. We do not find today any trace of rationalist theology of Islam that had received patronage from a few caliphs in early 9th century CE."

"[In India, Islamic Scholar] Asrar Alam Is Keen To Seek The Hidden Jewish Hand Behind Every Past Or Present Mis-happening In The Muslim World"; "[Such] Conspiracy Literature Leaves Very Bizarre Imprints On Young Muslim Minds Impending Their Intellectual Growth And Rational Credibility"

"Muslims cannot revive their past glory to which they keenly aspire only by wishful thinking. Instead, for that purpose, they have to have once again revive, revisit, revise and rethink their civilizational legacy.

"This is the law of nature as revealed by the holy book: 'Then as for scum, it departs as rubbish, and as for that which benefits mankind, it lasts on the earth' – (Koran 13:16). Moreover, this sublime task cannot be done without rejuvenating, moderating, and revising the rotten educational system taught in seminaries, madrassas, and even community-run schools and colleges.

"Today, among Muslims the most desirable and most wanted theme is the conspiracy theories or the baseless concepts of the coming of Mahdi and the messiah. A lot has been written in both Arabic and Urdu on this theme. Dr. Asrar Ahmad, Mufti Abu Lubaba in Pakistan, and Asrar Alam in India, along with so many Saudi Salafi scholars, are most sought-after writers in this regard among the new generation.

"Asrar Alam is keen to seek the hidden Jewish hand behind every past or present mis-happening in the Muslim world. He has even very absurdly seen that hand behind the holy prophet's demise. This conspiracy literature leaves very bizarre imprints on young Muslim minds impending their intellectual growth and rational credibility."

"Muslims Have Been Waging An Uncalled-For Jihad Against Their Real Or Imagined Enemies For The Past Two Centuries, To Which Ulama And Community Leaders Had Pushed And Led Them In"

"There are thousands of antichrists among them at all times, yet Muslims are looking for the antichrist like many orthodox Jews and Christians. Similarly, most Muslim Ulama and mullahs [clerics] are waiting for the false Mahdi and messiah and doing nothing. Because, among the Ummah, they have spread the idea that Mahdi and the messiah will come and take away all their sorrows, resolve all their issues, making them victorious over the world.

"Centuries have gone waiting for the Mahdi and messiah to come, yet the Mahdi and messiah do not seem ready to come yet. Furthermore, many false Mahdis have proclaimed their arrival and still keep claiming to be Mahdi in different times and places.

Jama Masjid, New Delhi, built by Shah Jahan, the Mughal ruler of Delhi

"Yes, colonialism was the source of many problems and agonies, yet the 'colonialism acceptance mentality,' to quote the Algerian writer Malik Bin Nabi, is the most lethal disease. We have to shun the victimhood mentality and get out of conspiracy theories altogether to eliminate this disease.

"Because of negative thinking, Muslims cannot learn from others to go on the development path. Their religious superiority complex is another hurdle. They have to give up the bad habit of living in the past and not accepting new realities. Their sectarian divide is also a significant root of suffering as we see there is no Islamic mosque or Islamic madrassa per se. Instead, there are Sunni mosques, Sunni madrassas, Shia mosque Shia madrassa, Hanafi mosque, Hanafi madrassa, Ahle Hadis mosque, and Ahle Hadis madrassa! There is anarchy in the world of Fatwas [Islamic edicts]. Takfir (declaring someone as a disbeliever) is on its high speed.

"Muslims have been waging an uncalled-for jihad against their real or imagined enemies for the past two centuries, to which Ulama and community leaders had pushed and led them in, so now they are on the wrong side of history. Because it is the age of dialogue and interfaith and intra-faith understanding. Muslims have to eliminate this battle cry mentality. Without that, Muslims, or any other nation, cannot go ahead with other nations and cannot walk side-by-side with others in modern world."

Source:, May 19, 2022. The original English of the article has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

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