A Model of Individual Human Development to the Fullest Potential
Based on the Qur’anic Concept of Man
Dr. Noor Gillani is Principal Research Scientist at NASA’s National Space Science and Technology Center, and Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). He was the founder and first National Director of Project PIAR of Aga Khan Education Board – USA.
Over the past fifteen years, inspired by comments made by His Highness the Aga Khan, Dr. Gillani has developed a model of Islamic Humanism based on his personal interpretation of the Qur’anic concept of man. The model addresses both, the question of the purpose of human life and that of balancing our Muslim religious heritage with our non-Muslim Western environment. The essence of the model is presented here in outline form.
The article was originally published in the Ismaili USA Magazine.
After its birth in the 7th century, the Muslim world quickly rose to the forefront of human civilization, and remained there during the next four or five centuries. But it has been in a protracted state of decline during the last few centuries. Under the post-9/11 spotlight, the question, “What went wrong?” has been asked prominently.
In the view of many, a major factor leading to the rise of Islam during its expansion outside the Arabian peninsula in the early classical period was an active practice of the humanism of Islam. It encouraged absorption of enriching external socio-cultural influences (e.g., Greek medicine and philosophy, Persian literature, and Eastern mysticism) into the new religious heritage, which itself was being elaborated in a plurality of expressions and interpretations.
Subsequently, a combination of increasing insistence on heresiographic and dogmatic, rather than pluralistic, interpretations of the faith, and resistance to successful assimilation of intellectual, scientific and ideological advances forged in the West, have contributed greatly (though not exclusively) to the decline.
In recent years, Mawlana Hazar Imam has sought to “revitalize that Islamic humanistic tradition,” which he has referred to as “an intimate part of Ismaili tradition,” and “singularly important for the whole Islamic Ummah” (Fed. Council, Pakistan, Dec. 1st, 1986). He has also guided us to use it as the context for bringing up our children in Western society (NY Banquet Speech, 11 Nov ’86). Indeed, it was the following statement that formed the basis for the Aga Khan Education Board (AKEB)’s parenting program (PIAR) :—
“empowerment of the parents for the optimum development of our children, within the context of Islamic Humanism.”