Critical Reading Group

The blind and the seeing are not alike; nor are the depths of darkness and the Light; nor are the shade and the heat of the sun; nor are alike those that are living and those that are dead … Those truly in awe of God among His servants are the learned.

(Qur’an, 35:19-22, 28) 

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living … I mean that profounder beauty which comes from the harmonious order of the parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.

    Henri Poincare 

Toward the end of the eighth century, the life of one particular man was about to change irrevocably. The man was Thabit bin Qurra who had already reached local distinction through his talent in linguistics and languages. He was to remain, however, engaged in various menial crafts as his livelihood in Harran (now in Turkey), until that is, he caught the attention of the philanthropist Mohammed bin Musa bin Shakir during his travels.  Thabit would accompany Mohammed bin Musa back to Baghdad to work with him and other illustrious scholars in Dar ul-Hikma. They were all gathered with other consummate scholars at the Dar ul-Hikma (House of Wisdom) under the auspices of the ‘Abbasid caliph, Al-Mu‘tadid. The purpose of the Dar ul-Hikma was primarily to provide a protected, intellectually vibrant space for talented scholars to pursue their interests that spanned an astonishing number of diverse subjects. This gathering would prove to serve as an engine for revolutionary advances in knowledge, science and technology. It was at the Dar ul-Hikma that Thabit bin Qurra not only put his language skills into service by translating and critiquing many of the most important treatises of the Greeks, but also became a first-rate scholar in his own right. It is worth noting another point concerning Thabit: he was not a Muslim, but a Sabian, a star worshipper.   


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