With the recent passing of the most important visionary and technology innovator of our lifetime, Steve Jobs, I am left with this question: Why can't the Islamic world produce a person as brilliant and generous as Steve Jobs? Let me suggest six reasons why we may not be able to do so.
We immediately think of the educational curriculums adopted in the Islamic countries, knowing that education is the first step toward refining the talent and minds of scientists, inventors and innovators. Yet, our curriculums are sterile and outdated and are unable to produce persons of the caliber of a Steve Jobs. Why is this so? Because these curriculums fail to value or embrace the disciplines that are vital for our modern times, sciences like mathematics, chemistry, physics, philosophy and logic, which have been disregarded and replaced by religious subjects. A nation cannot progress if it uses an educational system whose main focus is religion and in which secular pursuits are not given any importance. These curriculums are based on memorization and blind obedience while the curriculums that produced Steve Jobs and other brilliant innovators are based on understanding, comprehension, experimentation and invention. How can we change this paradigm?
Secondly, Islamic nations praise the abstract at the expense of the concrete, that is, they believe in the unknown and disregard reality by permitting religion to dominate all aspects of scientific inquiry. Although the Prophet said to the people of Medina, "You know best about the matters of your world," we remain obsessed with the taboos, heresies and errors of every useful science and do all we can to suppress legitimate questions. When all sorts of freedoms, sciences, inventors and innovators are suppressed and restrained, we are left with those scientists who specialize in the fields of menstruation, nifaas (bleeding after childbirth), halal, and haram.
Thirdly, Islamic countries are obsessed by angels and demons, God and Satan. If something fails, then its failure is due to the fact that God has decided that it is not meant to be, or Satan and his devilish schemes have caused it to fail. Conversely, if it succeeds, then this is God's plan and the result of prayer to keep Satan away. We rely too much on all things intangible and insubstantial, remaining in ignorance. Our biggest concern seems to be whether eating the meat of demons is haram or halal. How strange and ignorant is that?
Fourthly, the religious speech in Islamic countries tells us not to be impressed or admire the lives of other peoples, peoples who have struggled against cancer, walked on the moon and invaded outer space, peoples whose fleets roam the seas and whose aircraft rule the skies. While they have the ability and freedom to do what they please, we go to them in mourning like orphans, searching for medical cures, using their cars and airplanes, and continue to criticize them day in and day out in secret and in public, although we use all of their tools and inventions. How hypocritical!
Fifthly, we can see that Islamic nations have used lame and illogical excuses to push art aside and intentionally hide it from their people. All kinds of art such as music, theater, painting, and sculpture have been de-emphasized or completely disregarded. This has led to creating shaken and disturbed personalities and spirits, stifling talents that could add to the enjoyment of life. Art is a means to satisfy our soul and feed our emotions, producing a more confident, balanced and spiritual humanity and motivating people to live and work, and even more, to create, innovate and give of themselves to others. Art protects humanity from all that can bring it down and allows spirits and hearts to soar high into a sky filled with optimism and hope and to move steadily down the road of innovation, creation and discovery.
Finally, Islamic nations generally tend to dwell in the past at the expense of the present and the future and thus become prisoners of an outmoded way of thinking. Although great progress has been achieved in the past, now such countries seem frozen in time, unwilling or unable to foster the kind of visionary thinking and innovations epitomized by Steve Jobs. In short, we have watched as other countries have planned for the future by emphasizing the very things that made Steve Jobs' technologies so compelling and popular. Times change, challenges arise, and innovators respond and adapt. So must countries.
May God bless your soul, Mr. Jobs, for the many inventions that you have left behind for humanity. Someone of your brilliance could only be the product of a nation that has provided its citizens with a fertile environment to be creative and innovative and that has understood the reality of our times. How can Islamic nations achieve such progress? We must turn the page on extolling religious dogma that breeds ignorance and a disgust for the future. Let us hope another Steve Jobs will emerge to lead us towards a brighter future!