Here, the author is talking about his uncle, who was also the mudir (headmaster) of his madrassa in Kumsai, Ghana. This segment also highlights the love-hate relationship of Muslims with the West, especially when it comes to modern science:
He often expressed admiration for Western achievements in science and technology, but he was also fond of insisting that none of the advances made by the West had ever outsmarted death. One day, I heard my uncle tell the assistant mudir that his lack of faith in the West arose from the simple fact that the white man couldn’t make electricity shock-free. In my uncle’s view, something that gives light, energy, and even life should not also harm or kill. This perceived failure alone was enough to cast doubt in Uncle’s mind over the entirety of Western civilization.
My uncle’s skepticism, as irrational as it was logical and theological, was founded on the belief that Western science could never attain perfection; perfection could be achieved solely by the one and only Allah. And yet Uncle Ustaz did believe that the West had come close to perfection in the field of aviation. He marvelled at the fact that something as heavy as a jet plane, with all its cargo, could stay in the air for such a long time. When I was about eleven, Uncle started disseminating a theory that went like this: airplanes are able to take off from the ground and remain in the firmament only because aviation engineers worldwide recite a special prayer verse from the Koran before each plane departs. In 1982, Uncle Ustaz took a trip to Nigeria, and, when he returned, he claimed to have seen something that proved his theory: an aviation engineer, “a white man he was,” placed a hand on one of the plane’s tires and read aloud from a small Koran just as the plane was preparing for takeoff. Soon, the story of the Koran-reciting aviation engineer became an article of faith in my city’s Muslim community; it had finally been shown that the white man was powerless without the aid of Almighty Allah.
Read the full article here.