In his newly released novel The Prisoner of Al-Hakim, Bradley Steffens tells the story of Alhasan Ibn Al-Haytham, one of the greatest minds in the history of science. Ibn Al-Haytham is known for his pioneering studies in optics, but Steffens appreciates him more for the profound empirical foundations he established for scientific study. Today, his name is recognized almost only among science historians, and Steffens hopes his novel gives Alhasan due credit in his historical novel, which “feels … like the best kind of adventure novel – a road-trip book full of swashbuckling, danger, and indelible scenery.” But Ibn Al-Haytham wasn’t just a scientist; his experimental science was a product of his faith, where in the West there is a schism between science and religion.
History is filled with eras we don’t want to remember. Times of war, bloodshed, violence, persecution… Things we wish would remain deep in the past.
The irony is that the worst times were arguably the times when virtue and good character were best exemplified. Prophet Abraham’s life is just such an example, peace be upon him. Accepted as a patriarch by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the story of Abraham, as told in the Holy Scriptures, could help the faithful of these three religions approach one another as cousins, if not brothers, as opposed to rivals. The faithful would be wise to study his struggle under the persecution of his society and state; his methodology of teaching; his and his family’s ordeals; his emigration; and his commitment to his cause.
In this issue, The Fountain explores what Abraham means to Muslims, Jews, and Christians. A Muslim author, two Jewish Rabbis, and a Christian Reverend reflect how Abraham’s story is understood in their own traditions, as well as how Abraham’s legacy manifests in day-to-day life, prayers, and worship. These reflections on Abraham may serve as a good source of reference for interfaith practitioners.
When studying the periodic table in chemistry class, none of us knew it was missing some elements. The Russian chemist Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev (d. 1907), who deserves most of the credit for the table as we know it, predicted that the table would eventually be filled by new elements, to be found in the future. The article “The Last Elements” describes the qualities of the last four elements discovered a few years ago.
Our lives are deeply intertwined with the internet and social media – a 24/7 engagement in a virtual world. In “Protecting Our Privacy – or What Is Left of It?” we explore how much we are exposing ourselves to intrusion by others. Despite mass surveillance by the government and corporations, privacy still matters, and necessary measures must be taken by “combining technology, policy, and law.”