Singapore-based scientist wins top science and technology award of Islamic world


Professor Jackie Ying will be awarded the inaugural Mustafa Prize in the Top Scientific Achievement category on Friday. Photo Courtesy: TST/Seah Kwang Peng

Samantha Boh


A SINGAPORE-based scientist has won the top science and technology award of the Islamic world, which comes with a $700,000 cash prize.

Professor Jackie Ying, 49, executive director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), will be awarded the inaugural Mustafa Prize in the Top Scientific Achievement category on Friday (Dec 25), in a ceremony to be held in Teheran, Iran.

This prize is meant for individuals whose research has improved human life and “expanded the boundaries of our perception about the world”.

Among her numerous scientific contributions, Prof Ying was recognised in particular for her role in developing glucose-sensitive nanoparticles that deliver insulin to diabetic patients only when their blood glucose levels are high.

The system does away with external blood glucose monitoring by finger pricks, and allows insulin to be delivered orally or by the nasal passage, instead of through injections.

Professor Hossein Zohour, head of the scientific committee of the Mustafa Prize, said the groundbreaking research is “an outstanding scientific approach of great promise for improving the quality of life of mankind in the near future”.

The other top award winner, under the Nano Science and Nanotechnologies category, was Jordanian chemist Omar Yaghi, co-director of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

The pair edged out 600 other nominees, including Nobel laureates and scientists in the top of their fields.

The Mustafa Prize recognises leading researchers and scientists of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states, and Muslim researchers from around the world.

Prof Ying, who was born in Taipei, and raised in Singapore and New York, converted to Islam in her 30s.

She told The Straits Times that she intends to use a portion of the prize money to get more students intrigued about science, such as through exchange trips to renowned overseas science institutions and better-equipped school laboratories. She will start her effort at her alma mater Raffles Girls’ School.

The Straits Times

Thursday, 24 December 2015


‘Quranic Agroforestry ‘

buku kebun al-quran

Vera Salim

WHEN one tries to follow through what has been contemporarily written about scientific proofs in the Quran, one can’t help but being reminded of the 109th ayah in Surah Al-Kahfi:

“If the sea were ink for (writing) the words (*) of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.” [* The Saheeh International edition of the translation of the Quran explains the “words” (al-kalimaat) of Allah as the words of Allah’s unlimited knowledge or words describing His attributes and His grandeur or praise of Him Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.]

Scientific Proofs?
Indeed, there’s no aspect whatsoever of our existence that is not encompassed by the Quran in one way or another. Attempts at explaining the ayaat of Al-Quran from just one perspective – say, a scientific approach – that people have already carried out are but a speck of dust in the unlimited oceans of Allah’s knowledge.

We hold in awe some experts’ attempts at explaining, say, the proofs of embryology or oceanology in the Quran. For instance, there have been many discussions about the verses of “two seas.” In Surah Ar-Rahman (55): 19-20, Allah says: “He released the two seas meeting (side by side); Between them is a barrier [so] neither of them transgresses.” Also, Surah Al-Furqan (25): 53 where Allah says: “And it is He who has released (simultaneously) the two seas (i.e., bodies of water), one fresh and sweet and one salty and bitter, and He placed between them a barrier and prohibiting partition.”

Early Muslim scholars such as Ibn Kathir of 7th century Hijrah Syria, or even the much later scholars such as Muhammad al-Tahir ibn Ashur of Tunis in the 20th CE century, have explained what the “two seas” mean.

Thanks to the Internet, we can read their scholarly explanations any time. Their works will continue to benefit themselves and us, InsyaAllah, in understanding Allah’s Words. However, we understand also that the painstaking endeavors of the scholars do not scratch even the surface of Allah’s knowledge. The commandment that we ponder the Quran remains on our shoulders.

Even in Farming
It is through this perspective we should view current attempts at obtaining the huda (guidance) and mau’izhah (instruction) from the Quran for any life aspects, from politics to social building and even farming. The farmers and agriculture experts of today should, for instance, read Kitab Al-Filahah by Abu Zakariyyah Yahya ibn Muhammad or Ibn al-‘Awwam.

Ibn al-‘Awwam hailed from Ishbilia (Seville) in Muslim Spain in the 6th century Hijrah. The book Kitab al-Filahah became a more comprehensive and encyclopedic work on agriculture and agronomy because Ibn al-’Awwam cited quotations from the earlier sources wherever he could. He followed in the footsteps and benefited from the work of agricultural scholars of fifth century Muslim Spain such as Muhammad al-Tighnari or Ibn Wafid of Toledo and Abu ‘Umar Ahmad.

About 100 years after these pioneers, Ibn al-’Awwam collected information supplied by them and from other sources in his Kitab al-Filahah which is more comprehensive and up-to-date. It gained wider publicity and was considered so important that Ibn Khaldun also referred to it in the Muqaddimah. Don’t forget, Muslim Spain was one of the most glorious periods of the Muslim world. These past scholars’ treatises made Al-Quran their main source of instruction at all levels of their studies.

The Garden of Al-Quran
There is today the beginning of a wave to return to Al-Quran as our main instruction in agriculture; one of the proponents of this wave is Muhaimin Iqbal of Jakarta, Indonesia, whose sustainable farming scheme iGrow won a prize in the recent StartupIstanbul competition in Turkey and was written about in Forbes by Federico Guerrini.

Iqbal coined the term “Quranic Agroforestry” and culled from the knowledge he has gained from years of farming as well as studying the Quran both theories and practices that he wrote about in his book, Kebun Al-Quran (The Garden of the Quran).

In the book, he explains various aspects of farming from the Quranic perspective, from how to revive the dead or barren land to how the fruit date prevents starvation as mentioned in the hadith of Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to how Islamic farming actually is multicultural farming!

Here’s a small excerpt from the book:

“We see green everywhere, but why is it not enough? This is because the green (the trees) are planted simply for the sake of making things green or for the sake of logging, or fruit harvesting.

(When it comes to the question of food insecurity), our search for answers often results in some vested interests’ gains. This quest has not given maximal returns to the whole community.

What if we now seek the guidance of Allah about what to plant? Does Allah give detailed guidance? We must believe that Allah provides detailed answers about every question, including food security, such as in the following ayah:

‘And within the land are neighbouring plots and gardens of grapevines and crops and palm trees, (growing) several from a root or otherwise, watered with one water; but We make some of them exceed others in (quality of) fruit. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason.’ [Ar-Ra’d (13): 4]

So there are plots, plants or gardens that thrive next to each other. Some exceed others in producing foods for humans. All we need to do is identify what plants should be placed next to one another and which will give optimal yields for humans.

Agricultural experts know that multicultural farming – as opposed to monocultural – provides the best yields but also is better able to withstand diseases.”

Underlying the idea of multicultural farming is the knowledge that each plant variety obtains the maximal photosynthesis with only 1/10 of the sunshine it receives. Iqbal then refers to the food forestry in Morocco that has existed for thousands of years in which different varieties of plants grow together. This is similar to today’s sustainable plants composition that is known as permaculture, whose description can be found in the illustration 1 from http://www.spiralseed.

“Compare (these farming schemes) with what Al-Quran specifically says about certain plants,” Iqbal writes. “The first plant as the canopy is date palm plants. The low tree can either be olives (zaituun), pomegranate (rummaan) or figs (tiin). The number 3 plants are various fruit plants or sweet flowers that are known as raihaan in Surah ArRahman (55) ayah 12.

The plant number 4 is various herbal growths, the number 5 plant can be ginger as found in Surah Al-Insan (76) verse 17. The plant number 6 in the illustration depicts various shrubs as found in Surah ‘Abasa (80) verse 31. The last plant in the illustration is grapes and other vines as indicated in Surah AlAn’am (6) verse 141,” Iqbal writes.

Ultimately, the answer to food insecurities affecting the world today, Iqbal argues, lies in a people’s Iman (faith) and Taqwa (consciousness or fear of Allah). Iqbal cites:

“And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah, We would have opened (i.e., bestowed) upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth; but they denied (the messengers), so We seized them for what they were earning.” [Surah Al-A’raf (7): 96]

Allah knows best.

Islamia/The Brunei Times

Friday, 4 December 2015


The Qur’an and Modern Science: Authencity of Qur’an

Quran_rzabasi3By Dr. Maurice Bucaille (Edited by Dr. A. A. Bilal Philips)


Dr Maurice Bucaille

Dr Maurice Bucaille

Before getting to the essence of the subject, there is a very important point which must be considered: the authenticity of the Qur’anic text.

It is known that the text of the Qur’an was both recited from memory, during the time it was revealed, by the Prophet and the believers who surrounded him, and written down by designated scribes among his followers. This process lasted for roughly twenty-three years during which many unofficial copies were made. An official copy was made within one year after the Prophet’s death at the instruction of Caliph Abu Bakr.

Here we must note a highly important point. The present text of the Qur’an benefited in its original preparation from the advantage of having its authenticity cross-checked by the text recited from memory as well as the unofficial written texts. The memorized text was of paramount importance at a time when not everyone could read and write, but everybody could memorize. Moreover, the need for a written record was included in the text of the Qur’an itself. The first five verses of chapter al-‘Alaq, which happen to constitute the first revelation made to the Prophet (S), express this quite clearly:

“Read: In the name of your Lord who created. Who created man from a clinging entity. Read! Your Lord is the most Noble, Who taught by the pen. Who taught man what he did not know.” Qur’an, 96:1-5

These are surely words in “praise of the pen as a means of human knowledge”, to use Professor Hamidullah’s expression.

Then came the Caliphate of ‘Uthman (which lasted from the twelfth to the twenty-fourth year following Muhammad’s death). Within the first two years of Caliph ‘Uthman’s rule, seven official copies were reproduced from the official text and distributed throughout a large area of the world which had already come under Islamic rule. All unofficial copies existing at that time were destroyed and all future copies were made from the official seven copies.

quran bible scienceIn my book, The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, I have quoted passages from the Qur’an which came from the period prior to the Hijrah (the Prophet’s emigration from Makkah to Madeenah in the year 622) and which allude to the writing of the Qur’an before the Prophet’s departure from Makkah.

There were, moreover, many witnesses to the immediate transcription of the Qur’anic revelation.

Prof Jacques Berque

Prof Jacques Berque

Professor Jacques Berque has told me of the great importance he attaches to it in comparison with the long gap separating the writing down of the Judeo-Christian revelation from the facts and events which it relates. Let us not forget that today we also have a number of manuscripts of the first written versions of the Qur’an which were from a time period very close to the time of revelation.

I shall also mention another fact of great importance. We shall examine statements in the Qur’an which today appear to merely record scientific truth, but of which men in former times were only able to grasp the apparent meaning. In some cases, these statements were totally incomprehensible. It is impossible to imagine that, if there were any alterations to the texts, these obscure passages scattered throughout the text of the Qur’an, were all able to escape human manipulation. The slightest alteration to the text would have automatically destroyed the remarkable coherence which is characteristic to them. Change in any text would have prevented us from establishing their total conformity with modern knowledge. The presence of these statements spread throughout the Qur’an looks (to the impartial observer ) like an obvious hallmark of its authenticity.

The Qur’an is a revelation made known to humans in the course of twenty-three years. It spanned two periods of almost equal length on either side of the Hijrah. In view of this, it was natural for reflections having a scientific aspect to be scattered throughout the Book. In a study, such as the one we have made, we had to regroup the verses according to subject matter, collecting them chapter by chapter.

How should they be classified? I could not find any indications in the Qur’an suggesting any particular classification, so I decided present them according to my own personal one.

It would seem to me, that the first subject to deal with is Creation. Here it is possible to compare the verses referring to this topic with the general ideas prevalent today on the formation of the Universe. Next, I divided up verses under the following general headings: Astronomy, the Earth, the Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms, Humans, and Human Reproduction in particular. Furthermore, I thought it useful to make a comparison between Qur’anic and Biblical narrations on the same topics from the point of view of modern knowledge. This has been done in the cases of Creation, the Flood and the Exodus. The reason that these topics were chosen is that knowledge acquired today can be used in the interpretation of the texts.

A copy of Uthman's mushaf kept in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.

A copy of Uthman’s mushaf kept in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.

Teach works of Muslim scientists in schools

Forum panellists from right to left, Professor Salim Al-Hassani, Dr Hj Mohamad Hussain Pehin Penyurat Hj Ahmad, deputy rector of UNISSA, and Professor Datuk Dr Osman Bakar, director of Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies during the Knowledge Convention Forum. Photo: BT/Md Asdeny Yakub

Forum panellists from right to left, Professor Salim Al-Hassani, Dr Hj Mohamad Hussain Pehin Penyurat Hj Ahmad, deputy rector of UNISSA, and Professor Datuk Dr Osman Bakar, director of Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies during the Knowledge Convention Forum. Photo: BT/Md Asdeny Yakub

Rasidah HAB

SCHOOLS must incorporate the contributions of all scientists including Muslims in the syllabus to inspire people, a University of Manchester professor said.

Speaking as a panellist at the Knowledge Convention 2014 Forum yesterday, Professor Salim Al-Hassani said achievements and discoveries made by Muslims were often overlooked.

“The world is one village, we are all human beings. If we have to mention all the names of scientists and inventors, then mention all, or do not mention (at all),” he said.

Sharing his knowledge to the audience that included His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, Professor Salim spoke about how scientists and mathematicians such as Plato and Archimedes were featured predominantly in textbooks around the world.

“It inspired people (especially in Europe) because they were seen as the architects of present science and civilisation. Now give the same books to non-European cultures, it does the exact opposite. It will uninspire the young person because he or she did not have a stake in this civilisation at all,” he added.

The problem here was not because there was no contribution from other civilisations, said Professor Salim, who specialises in Mechanical Engineering.

Prof Dr Salim Al-Hassani

Prof Dr Salim Al-Hassani

“The contributions by the Chinese, Indian and Muslims actually exist and these contributions were enormous. Thousands of discoveries have been made in this part of the world. They were actually the foundation of modern civilisation and science,” he added.

He said people need to be inspired so that they can achieve greatness that was not about money or recognition.

“I believe Brunei is in an ideal position to lead in introducing a special breed of scientists. Scientists who are physically and morally guided to invent new solutions to societal and world problems,” Professor Salim said.

Another panellist Dr Hj Mohamad Hussain Pehin Penyurat Hj Ahmad, deputy rector of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), called on the government to look back at the history of Islam in providing a conducive learning environment.

The government must create infrastructure and environment that are conducive for learning as well as provide sufficient equipment and budget allocations, he said.

He spoke about the establishment of Baitul Hikmah (House of Wisdom), during the time of Harun Al-Rashid in the history of Islam that facilitated learning and research.

Baitul Hikmah was set up to encourage scientific research and produce Muslim scientists, he added.

In line with the Knowledge Convention’s theme of ‘Science and Technology: Catalyst of Development and Enhancing the Ummah’s Quality of Life’, Dr Hj Mohamad Hussain stressed the need for a balance in education.

He said, “The balance that is based on and not separated from tauhid (oneness of Allah SWT’s qualities and attributes). It comprised education in spiritual, physical and intellectual aspects”.

The contents of the curriculum must also be sourced from the Quran and Sunnah. “Al-Quran itself contains a vast amount of knowledge. It is without boundaries as it comes from Allah SWT,” he said.

The deputy rector said students are trained with critical thinking, addign that this is important for Muslims especially youths.

“Our predecessors from the time of Rasulullah SAW (pbuh) possessed critical thinking and were civic-minded, the curiosity to know more,” he added.

Director of Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies Professor Datuk Dr Osman Bakar spoke on the importance of history.

He said to answer the question on what were the characteristics of exemplary scientists, one needs to look back at the history of Islam.

“We have thousands of Muslim scientists throughout history. Looking back at our history, the scientists were those who possessed iman (faith), in-depth knowledge and taqwa (obey the rules of Islam and submit to Allah SWT).

The Brunei Times
Tuesday, November 4, 2014



Salim Al-Hassani Edu

Muslims encouraged to ‘be open to the world’

Dr Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Oxford. Photo: BT/Quratul-Ain Bandial

Dr Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Oxford. Photo: BT/Quratul-Ain Bandial

Quratul-Ain Bandial

THERE is a need to revive intellectual discourse in Islam, said a renowned Muslim academic, adding that Muslims should be critical in order to gain a better understanding of their faith.

Dr Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University, said religious scholars should not isolate themselves to criticism and new ideas.

“For many of the ulama it’s about the rules, it’s not about the environment, critical thinking or the movement,” he said during a public lecture on contemporary Islam at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) yesterday.

“It’s about protecting ideas… We should not protect ourselves from the changing world; we should change the world for the better.”

The Swiss academic is on his fourth visit to Brunei as a visiting scholar at UBD’s Sultan Omar `Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS).

Responding to a question from an audience member, Ramadan said while there were immutable laws in Islam, our understanding of religious texts should evolve through intellectual discourse.

“Seeking knowledge as a Muslim is not only to come to the Islamic references – this is a problem.

“You cannot change the world if you remain isolated … Seek knowledge by reading other books, reading people who are not Muslims, be open to the world.”

The professor also stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue in contributing to the understanding of Islam.

“(During theological conferences) many people leave after the Muslims have spoken… You are not disrespecting the man who is speaking but you are disrespecting yourself, your mind, because you are not listening to people who have something to say,” he said.

“Everyone can teach us something and this is intellectual humility.”

He told university students to be committed to intellectual engagement and to have the courage to be critical.

“We have to be committed to reviving this spirit… As a student, the first thing is to seek knowledge. Seeking a degree – that’s not knowledge… It can go together but sometimes it doesn’t.”

Ramadan is scheduled to speak at the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies International Conference (SICON) next week.

He is the author of several books contributing to the debate on issues faced by Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, November 2, 2014