Saturday, September 30, 2023
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Islamic Heritage Month: Celebrate the Achievements of Muslims

October is Islamic Heritage Month in Canada, a time to celebrate the many contributions Muslims have made to the world. Throughout history, Muslims have been at the forefront of innovations in science, food and beverages, education, and more.

Celebrating Islamic Heritage Month helps foster a more inclusive society. By learning about and celebrating the accomplishments of Muslims, we can help break down barriers and build understanding between different communities. This is especially important given the recent rise in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment worldwide. 

Imagine a world without the ability to see your loved ones over video chat or text photos from your phone. Thanks to Nasir Ahmed, this is not our reality. In the 1970s, Ahmed discovered the algorithm allowing image and video transmission over the internet, revolutionizing how we communicate and connect. Without his groundbreaking work, we may not be able to attend virtual meetings, stream movies, or even FaceTime with distant family members. Ahmed’s invention allows us to feel closer together. Next time you make a Zoom call or send a WhatsApp message, take a moment to appreciate the impact of Ahmed’s trailblazing work. His contribution indeed carries weight in today’s digitally connected world.

Millions of people across the globe rely on coffee to start their morning. Imagine if you didn’t have that tasty burst of caffeine in the morning. While tracing its roots back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau, the beverage has spread to nearly every corner of the world. In Ethiopia, legend attributes its discovery to Kaldi, a goat herder who noticed that his goats became more energetic after eating berries from a specific tree. Kaldi shared his findings with the abbot of a local monastery, who continued experimenting with these berries and shared his findings with other monks. From there, the knowledge and popularity of coffee continued to spread, eventually reaching the Arabian peninsula and beyond. Today, countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Vietnam are significant producers of coffee beans, supplying billions of cups consumed worldwide daily. Moreover, for many cultures, it is not just a morning pick-me-up but a considerable part of social life and tradition. As we savour each delicious cup, it’s interesting to think about the long journey these beans have made – from an unexpected discovery by goats in Ethiopia to our modern-day favourite drink.

You may not have heard of her before, but Fatima al-Fihri deserves to be celebrated as an incredible philanthropist and pioneer in education. As a wealthy Muslim woman in 859 C.E., she decided to use her resources for good by funding the creation of the first university, al-Qarawiyyin University, also known as Al-Karaouine University, in Fez, Morocco. This institution, which is still in use today, became known for its vast library and emphasis on scholarship and intellectual pursuits. The al-Qarawiyyin’s library currently holds a collection of over 4000 ancient manuscripts, including a 9th-century copy of the Qur’an. Fatima’s generosity provided access to knowledge for countless students over the centuries and helped preserve essential documents and ideas for future generations. Let us remember and honour al-Fihri’s legacy as we continue to support education and learning throughout the world.

These are just three examples of thousands of vital contributions Muslims have made in the past that are still very much relevant to our lives decades or even centuries later. Islamic Heritage Month is a chance to learn about and celebrate the diversity of Muslim beliefs and practices. There are over 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, making Islam one of the largest religions in the world. And yet, many non-Muslims know very little about Islam or Muslims. This month take the opportunity to learn more about this rich and diverse religion.  

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