This year’s Iqbal Seminar was held on the 8th November to commemorate Dr. Allama Iqbal, born on the 9th November 1877. The event took place at the Islamic-Christian Centre in Copenhagen and was organised by Dr. Lissi Rasmussen, Doctor of Theology at this Centre. Dr. Rasmussen has been the chief organiser of these wonderful events for the last five years, collaborating with Professor Safet Bektovic from the University of Oslo, and Ghulam Sabir Chairman of the Iqbal Academy Scandinavia. The guests included many recognised intellectuals and literary scholars, the chief guest was His Excellency the Ambassador of Pakistan, Mr. Masroor Ahmed Jonejo.
We began the programme of events at 10:30 with Professor Safet Bektovic taking the helm as the compere for the day. Unfortunately, as Dr. Lissi Rasmussen was unable to join us in the morning to open the session, Professor Safet did the honours. Happily however, Dr. Lissi did join us in the afternoon. In her absence Professor Safet took on the role of compere with great finesse and began the day with an introduction on the day’s theme “Science and Religion” before asking Ghulam Sabir to take to the stand to further illuminate the theme and in particular read extracts from his recent book “Religion and Physics”. In this address Ghulam Sabir covered some basic truths from his book including the fact that many great scientific works, between 750 and 1258 AD, were led by people of religion. He continued to explore the notion that scientists are mostly religious, some practicing conventional religion whilst others not so. He quoted Paul Davies, an English physicist, who states that amongst scientists who are not religious in a conventional sense, many confess that there is something behind the surface of day to day reality. According to Dr. Davies even staunch atheists have a sense of reverence for nature, and a fascination and respect for its depth and beauty. Mr. Sabir quoted several examples including this famous quote from Albert Einstein, “Science is lame without religion and religion is blind without science”. Mr. Sabir’s complete speech will be available on the internet in due course.
After Mr. Sabir’s address, Professor Safet invited Professor Muhammad Sharif Baqa from London, a renowned scholar and author of about forty books on the subjects of society and religion. He is well known for his knowledge and understanding of Dr. Allama Iqbal, arguably the greatest poet and philosopher of the East. He delivered a wonderful speech on the day’s topic, speaking with passion and great interest for almost an hour. His speech, as well as the other speeches from the day will be available on the internet within the next month.
Following the first two speeches of the day, we partook in a gratefully received and delicious lunch. After lunch our compere invited Phillippe Provencal to the stand, Research Fellow of the Natural History Museum of Denmark. He delivered a rich talk on Islam and rationality and presented two examples to illustrate his points, 1) Al-Jahiz of 9th century and 2) Muhammad Abduh of 19th century. His address was met with great appreciation and applause. The final speaker was Nicolai Halvorsen, University chaplain at the University of Copenhagen. He chose a very interesting topic, expressing his ideas on “The technical-scientific view of humanity and the role of religion”, and spoke with great energy to capture the interest and imaginations of all those in attendance. Following this final speech, questions were invited from the floor for all of the day’s speakers. The lively discussion which ensued, showed just how much the audience had appreciated and absorbed the thoughts and ideas expressed throughout the day.
At the end of this day, with our hearts and minds steeped in the subject of Science and Religion, guests were invited for coffee and refreshments. The day’s events came to a formal end at 15:00. All in all this was a wonderful day bringing together Christian and Islamic synergies on literary, science and religious understanding. This achievement was the result of tireless work over many years by Dr. Theol. Lissi Rasmussen, to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude.