Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Madeleine Bunting deserves some credit at least for the comments she has inspired. Some seedlings gleaned from a very big field.

The "word" Enlightenment is indeed Nineteenth Century. It is a translation of the German "aufklarung" (and not, as is often supposed, the reverse). It wasn't used by those who were actually part of it. The nearest they had to a name for themselves was The Age of Reason.

In 1784, in his answer to the question 'What is Enlightenment?' Kant deemed that `if it is now asked whether we live at present in an enlightened age, the answer is: No', but `we do live in an age of enlightenment'.

Jews, out of a world population of 12 million, have won some 260 Nobel prizes; Muslims, out of 1.3 billion, have won 6.

Reason ('aql) has a different significance in Islam to its Western meaning. Our rationality demands hard questioning of everything; Islamic reason is seen as confirming the truths of religion (thus, it is rational to believe God made the world, or the Qur'an presents sound arguments to men endowed with reason).

One confusion has always been between religious/shari'a law and customary/stated law, where they overlap and where not. Shari'a law has been more or less fixed in aspic since the earliest centuries and the (not entirely rigid) view that 'the door of independent reasoning in legal matters' has been closed since then. The great difference between shari'a and Western law is that the latter is subject to change through citizens electing parliaments and so on, whereas the former is not. Being ruled (in essence) by a book from the 7th century is not the same as being subject to rule by rationally-debated laws that citizens have the right to alter.

Another precursor of rocket power- the steam turbine- was invented by a Heron, a Graeco-egyptian in about the first century AD.

The Emperor Akhbar, [is buried] just across the river from the Taj Mahal. He is buried with his three wives. The first wife was a Muslim from Persia. The second wife was a Hindu from Rajasthan. The third wife was a St Thomas Christian.

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