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Muslim Unity Through Science and Technology in the 21st Century

Muslim Unity Through Science and Technology in the 21st Century

by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.

As we enter the 21st century, Muslims are so looked down upon, and they are treated with disrespect and they are suspect for terrorism.  Muslims are also the most oppressed people anywhere in the world.   Everywhere Muslims are bullied, detained, bombed and massacred with impunity. The Muslim countries are weak and are unable to do anything to defend themselves, their people and their fellow Muslims anywhere in the world.


Common sense dictates a Muslim country needs guns and rockets, warships and warplanes, armored cars, etc to defend its sovereignty.   A Muslim country cannot depend on imported military equipment, particularly from countries that are opposed to us. Muslims should invent, design, produce and test their own weapons of defense.(1)

This goal cannot be achieved unless one has scientific and technological knowledge and skills. Acquiring knowledge and skills is mandatory in Islam.  Those who learn science, mathematics and acquire technological skills are therefore obeying and fulfilling the injunctions of Islam.

There was time when Muslim countries were strong militarily and economically, and were advanced in the sciences and technology. During those glorious years of the Muslim civilization, Muslims were not oppressed. Muslims were respected and feared.  Europeans had to learn from Muslims new knowledge as well as those of the Greeks and others, which the Muslims had studied, translated into Arabic and enhanced. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) brought only one Deen from Allah (SWT) that is al- Islam. But today there are many Islamic sects.  They are the results of differing interpretations about Islam by different scholars through the centuries.(1)

Some of these interpretations and teachings are so different from each other that their followers actually accuse each other of not being Muslims. Indeed, they regard many who profess to be Muslims as infidels.

Because of the thousands of different interpretations of Islam and very many different sects, each claiming to be the true followers of Islam, the Muslims are thoroughly confused and disunited. Disunited, confused about Islam, fighting each other for power, lacking in essential knowledge and skills, misapplying their God-given wealth, the Muslims of today have reached the lowest point in their development.


The injunctions of the Qur'an are ignored completely, although these injunctions stress making judgment with justice. And because we ignore this stress on justice enjoined by Islam, we create an image of Islam that is uncaring and unjust.(1)

Islam has been misinterpreted   and deliberately ignoring the teachings of Islam. It is because of this that Muslims of today are backward, lacking in knowledge, unable to defend themselves and their religion, and some Muslims are forced to resort to terror in order to seek revenge.(1)

The Qur'an clearly states that Allah (SWT) will not change our fate unless we strive to change it ourselves. And so we will come to be oppressed, to be attacked, bombed and killed, while our religion, Islam, is condemned as false by the Christian elite in the West (1).



Dangers of globalization (2)

Dr Mahathir said non-Muslims were busy exploiting new technologies to the full, while Muslim countries were being left behind. He warned that Muslim countries that were technologically backward and economically poor risked being bullied and recolonised by the non-Muslim world.

To achieve the unity of Muslim in Britain (3), it is recommended that   all Muslims should become true Muslims themselves. (This doesn’t seem to be happening either, perhaps it might happen in future).  Some people want to establish an Islamic Khilafat (a single Muslim government in all the Islamic countries) by changing the minds of the Muslims.  However in the present era it appears to be impossible to achieve unity.

Qur'an and Muslim Unity (4)

Muslims are required to work together towards a common goal set by the Noble Qur'an and shown by the Prophet (PBUH) through his Sunnah. They are brothers and sisters because they are bonded by the common ideology of the unity of God and the unity of mankind.

These are the foundational principles of Islam. The Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) require Muslims to work for the unity of the Ummah. Muslims are required to be merciful towards each other (The Qur'an (48:29)) and be like the body where if any part hurts the whole body should feel the pain (Hadith). But, are Muslims practicing this injunction of the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH)?  Muslims and various Islamic organizations are working hard but it is frustratingly obvious that the above goals are ever so illusive. Instead of Muslims being united in mercy towards each other, they are, on the whole, far from it. Instead of feeling the pain and misery of other Muslims (Chechens, Palestinians, Kashmiris, for example), most of us are happily enjoying our material comforts of life. Is Muslim unity only a dream that cannot be fulfilled?  Some may argue that all this talk of Muslim unity is out of date. There was a time when Islam united Muslims but present reality makes it impossible. Talk of Muslim unity is nice, and makes Muslims feel good but it is an unrealistic goal that cannot be achieved. In fact, this is what is happening to Muslim Ummah today. Probably, there are no people in the world today who have been as divided as Muslims. They are divided along religious, political, ethnic, cultural, racial, linguistic, and sectarian lines. These divisions extend further into subdivisions. Status, wealth, fame, and fortune have also created social differences among Muslims.  Dr. Mansoor Alam says, "Muslims are divided at the root into Sunnis and Shias. Sunnis are further divided into Hanafi, Maliki, Sha'fi, and Hanbali. Shias too are divided into Kesania, Zaidia, Imamia or Ithna ‘Ashari, Ismailia, etc. Sunnis are also divided into Ahle-hadith and Ahle-fiqha. In the Indian subcontinent (at least) Ahle-fiqha are further divided into Deobandis and Barelwis. Similar differences exist in other places as well. Are all these divisions and differences schools of thought as many Muslims claim? Whether or not we admit it, these differences and divisions do create physical, emotional, and psychological barriers amongst us. Iqbal says that these differences create prejudice in human beings." (4).



Any recommendation for the unity of Muslim Ummah should be realistic and its effective application demands utmost sincerity, conviction, commitment and caution from every relevant person or authority. Although there has been gross political deviation within Islam, this can be rectified easily - because, Alhamdulillah, the Islamic framework is still alive and Al-Qur'an, the eternal constitution of the world, is ever present in the Muslim hearts. Repentance for the past negligence and pledge for the present, these two things being acceptable to Allah (SWT), are the pre-requisites for any success. Following broad recommendations are mentioned here - some for the inter-governmental bodies of the Muslim world and others for the Islamic Movements.

Lack of Consensus and Islamic Spirit

OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) and other governmental agencies, global or regional, should initiate to strengthen the cause of Muslim unity by increasing their commitment to their own declared objectives and charters. OIC has, in fact, devised some commendable schemes to promote mutual assistance and cooperation among Muslim countries in various fields. But the lethargy of the member states and incompetence of the OIC administration have made these programs ineffectual. Lack of consensus as well as Islamic spirit are the main reasons behind these apathetic situation. Methods and ways need to be found so that the relevant Muslim states can work positively on matters of common interest and avoid those that create dissensions. The following areas of cooperation and mutual help by the governmental organizations are now more demanding than ever.

Economic Cooperation

These include Food, Agriculture, Energy, Trade, Basic Industry, Transport, Communication, etc. Economy is the backbone for the self-reliance and prosperity of any country, but unfortunately no Muslim country has any economic infrastructure of its own. As Muslim countries are plagued either by affluence or extreme poverty, sharing of wealth, skill and expertise can improve their collective economic predicament.  

Science and Technology Exchange

As Science and Technology are fundamentally important for a nation to keep pace in the race of development, Muslim countries should promote cooperation and interaction in these areas. Muslim countries should put their joint efforts in order to develop their technological know-how in the productive areas of their economy and initiate some basic research if possible. This will help reducing the brain drain of the talented scientists from their countries.

Information and Cultural Cooperation

These include cooperation in the promotion of the features and history of Islamic Civilization, Academic and Research link in various areas of mutual interest as well as Information-related and Humanitarian activities. Cooperation in defending Muslim rights and Islamic values in Muslim-minority countries can lead to a better understanding among the Muslim countries. Serious and practical steps should be taken to promote Arabic, the language of the Qur'an and of eternal paradise, throughout the Muslim world with a view to making it the common language of the Ummah. This will definitely increase the psychological and spiritual bondage between the Muslim people.  


COMSTECH is the Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). OIC   member countries should promote science and technology to bring the Muslim nation at par with advanced nations. OIC countries should endeavor to promote rapid industrialization, strengthen the agricultural sector, and provide adequate health care for all, including the rural population.

The development of adequate basic infrastructure such as energy, communication and transportation, a substantial increase in export of both manufactured goods and services, and attainment of leadership in key areas of science and technology such as genetic engineering, biotechnology, engineering science, micro electronics, information technology, defense technology, are the need of the hour. These efforts have to be deployed in a mission-oriented and time-targeted mode for achieving a substantial increase in the Gross Domestic Product within a reasonable time frame. The OIC countries can play a vital role in science and technology in Emergency Preparedness, disaster preparedness, during, earth quake, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, bomb explosions, etc., asking the Muslim world to invest all efforts to advance in these fields for all-round progress.  Islamic countries should take efficient measures to control the devastating damage caused by pollution emanating from toxic waste, which brings about climatic changes along with the degradation of biological and socio- economic conditions. The Islamic Development Bank should continue its cooperation with member countries to meet the challenges of new millennium for fostering scientific and technological development.


The position Islamic countries hold toward the challenges faced by science and scientists are similar to those from developing countries. Environmental issues need to be on the forefront of priorities set in the agenda of the next millennium. 

Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, director general of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), reiterated that one of the imbalances characterizing modern society is that assistance programs, regional and international alike, have fallen short of upgrading scientific performance in the developing countries. He adds that these countries still suffer from the weakness of public institutions, which are no longer capable of ensuring the required measure of stability. Furthermore, their educational and training facilities are not apt for the creation of qualified manpower, let alone a nucleus of scientific staff of international caliber. "The situation is further compounded by the inadequate scientific research capacities, which does not augur well for the harnessing of endogenous natural resources, the production of new technologies and the fulfilment of the needs of an ever-increasing population", explains Altwaijri. "As a result, economic and social conditions will go on exacerbating, leading to thorny problems and crises." (7).

To alleviate the suffering of developing countries, the required assistance should be rendered to them so that they can achieve the greatest measure of scientific and technological progress. This is to be accomplished through knitting close ties of technical and financial cooperation between developing and developed countries as well as the competent international agencies. "These ties have to focus on the transfer of scientific knowledge and expertise, the opening of sustainable development avenues before them, the extension of further financial resources, in addition to ensuring optimal planning of their projects through updating the scientific and technological development efforts as a matter of top priority, then setting forth the objectives, and allocating sufficient financial resources on the basis of national commitments to proceed in this direction," explains Altwaijri.(7)

In a move to demonstrate this commitment science and education ministers of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) endorsed a draft strategy for developing science and technology in the Muslim world. The strategy's main recommendation is that governments should allocate a minimum of one per cent of their gross domestic product for scientific and technological development.  Despite agreeing to do this, many of the ministers admitted that a goal of one per cent was unrealistic. Many delegates commented that such a target would be too difficult for most OIC member countries to achieve.  All developing countries have no option but to increase their investment on science if they want to lift themselves above the pile of underdeveloped nations. A particularly pressing priority is human resource development, and secondly regional cooperation-both need funding.


The Organization of Islamic Conference Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) in collaboration with the International Foundation for Sciences (IFS) is providing support in the form of research grants to young scientists of merit in OIC member countries.

According to COMSTECH sources, an amount of more than Rs 36 million would be spent over a period of five years on the project. The grants are awarded in six different research areas within the general framework of "Management, use and conservation of Biological Resources", viz Aquatic resources, animal production (including veterinary medicine), crop science, forestry/agro-forestry, food science and natural products.

The research grants are awarded up to a maximum value of $12,000 for a period of one to three years and may be renewed twice. They were intended for the purchase of equipment, supplies for experiments and laboratory analysis, for buying scientific journals and other literature etc.

One of the problems, facing the scientists in the OIC member states, is the lack of scientific equipment, scientific libraries and consumables, required for carrying out research. As a result, the scientists, who return to their countries after obtaining PhD degrees from reputable foreign universities, often find that they could not productively contribute to the development of their own country because of the lack of proper facilities.

This had been responsible for growing frustration among the scientific community and many of them go abroad, causing brain drain and further aggravating the status of science in their own country. The COMSTECH has initiated this program for supporting scientific research projects of young scientists in key areas of science and technology. The research grants are meant for applicants who are citizens of, and carry out the research in, an OIC member state.

 Cooperation between Muslim countries (9)

The first verse of the Quran that was revealed and inspired Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was "Iqra" or to acquire knowledge and emphasized the importance of learning in human life.

 "Read in the name of thy Lord who creates."  The Noble Qur'an also says "Rabbi Zidni Ilmaa" that is to pray to Allah for increase in knowledge. According to the Qur'an only men of knowledge really fear Allah most.

There are many Ahadith, which emphasize the spiritual value of learning and of the need for all Muslims to expand their knowledge in all ways. The Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, the learned men are his heirs. Also with learning Allah (SWT) raised a people and makes them pioneers in whose path others will follow and whose examples others will take. Prophet of Islam also  said, seek  knowledge though it be in China. It was in such a spirit and encouraged by such words that the Arabs re-lit the torch of learning in Europe and bore it triumphantly aloft to illumine what would otherwise have remained for the West, the Dark Ages. Islamic Education brought light wherever there had been darkness before. From the very beginning Muslims were encouraged to do all they could to further the cause of education.

Joseph Hell in his well-known book, Arab Civilization (Joseph Hell, "The Arab Civilization." Tr. Khuda Baksh, Lahore 1943), explains why education was bound to flourish wherever Islam spread, in these words: Islam encouraged a noble ambition for learning, a craving for learning, a spirit of tolerance, a restless ambition to extend wider and yet wider the frontier of knowledge which so distinguishes the Muslims' mentality and stimulated lofty purpose. Joseph Hell continues in the Arab Civilization: "In the domain of trigonometry, the theory of Sine, Cosine and tangent is an heirloom of the Arabs. The brilliant epochs of Peurbach, of Regiomontanus, of Copernicus, cannot be recalled without reminding us of the fundamental and preparatory labor of the Arab Mathematician (Al-Battani, 858-929A.D.)."

"The adoption of the sign of 'Zero' (Arabic Sifr or Cipher) was a step of the highest importance, leading up to the so called arithmetic of positions. With the help of the Arab system of numbers, elementary methods of calculations were perfected; the doctrines of the properties of, and relations between, the equal and the unequal and prime numbers, squares and cubes, were elaborated; Algebra was enriched by the solution of the third degree and fourth degrees, with the help of geometry, and so on. About the year 820 CE the mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, wrote a text book of Algebra in examples, and his elementary treatise - translated into Latin - was used by Western scholars down to the sixteenth century."

Pakistan's educational system was  introduced by the British in order to  alienate the Muslims. The British educational system completely scrapped the Islamic way of education. Persian and Arabic, the pride of the Muslim ruling elite, where replaced with the English language. The curriculum was designed to serve the purposes of the colonial empire and not to promote the intellectual growth of the students. The British rule in India, gave a fatal blow to the system of education that distinguished the Muslims from the rest of the communities of the Subcontinent. With the passage of time the Muslims were alienated and their system of education suffered heavily.

At the time of independence, 14th August 1947, Pakistan had only two universities. In the first educational conference in Pakistan that was held on l7th November 1947, Quaid-i-Azam outlined an educational philosophy, which incorporated Islamic education and modern science and technology. The conference made a number of recommendations meant to make the educational system stronger and relevant to country's needs.
In Pakistan today there are 26
universities (General: 14, Engineering: 8, Agriculture: 4) that are giving higher education to the students with 9 universities in the private sector. Literacy rate in Pakistan (1996 Estimates) is 37.9 per cent. (9)

After the Second World War many Muslim countries became independent. Most of these countries are situated in Asia and Africa. Many Muslim countries in Central Asia got independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union. After gaining independence these countries gave due importance to education which was previously dominated by their colonial rulers-Great Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and also Soviet Union, institutions of higher learning were established and students were sent abroad for education in science and technology.
At present there are 56 independent Muslim States, members of the OIC, total number of Universities and Institutions of Higher Education and Research in the Muslim Ummah is above 1000. The average literacy rate in the Muslim world is 35 per cent.

Taking the economic development index as a parameter for development, one can see the disparity between the Muslim world and the developed world.

According to statistics, only six Islamic countries fall in the high human development index (HDI), 22 in the medium and as many as 23 in low HDI category, according to the UN. The highest-ranking Islamic country is 36th while the lowest 173rd, in the HDI list of 178 countries. The total GNP of the 56 OIC member countries is only $1.1 trillion, which is less than that of France with $1.5 trillion and only one fifth that of Japan which has a GNP of $ 5.1 trillion, with no natural resources but has 1000 universities including 120 of them in Tokyo alone. The total number of universities in OIC countries is 328 while Tokyo alone has 120.The OIC region, as a whole needs at least 12000 universities. The entire Muslim world constituting one-fifth of humanity, contributes barely 1000 research articles out of 100,000 science books and 2,000,000 research articles published annually. While the West has an average of 3000 science PhDs per million populations, our number is so dismally small that even the statistic was not available. (9)

Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan can says "Universities should give emphasis on technology and research in scientific education and only by paying full attention to the scientific education, we can compete with the developed countries of the world."(9)

Scholars agree that the true wealth of a nation lies in the quality of education with which its people are blessed and its ability to use its educated masses for economic development. It is a fact that the contribution of science and technology to economic growth is now widely recognized. After gaining independence, the Muslim countries' emphasis on science and technology is very poor. Because of this, most of the Muslim countries are defined as poor and under-developed. There are only 8 countries, which can be described as developing. .
As stated above there are more than 1000 Universities and institutions of higher learning and research in the Muslim world. It is amazing to note that most of the Muslim countries do not have educational links/contacts between them. Though some positive steps have been taken in this direction yet more efforts are required to develop linkage/contacts between educational and research institutions of the Muslim world. The Muslim Ummah must realize the demands of the 21st century and give due importance to education. The Muslim world must lay the groundwork of constructive, dynamic and meaningful revolution among the minds of our youth through education. For this, expansion in educational links/contacts between Muslim countries be so planned that these countries could benefit from each others' experiences and expertise. (9)
Linkage be established between prestigious Universities and Institutes of Higher Learning of the Muslim world for inviting well-known scholars to visit and deliver external lectures. During this visit scholar can meet colleagues and advanced students, advise on academic programs, and explore the possibilities for collaborative research. Under such a scheme a prominent scholar from an Arab University might visit a number of universities of an Asian Muslim country or a distinguished researcher from Central Asian Muslim country work in some Muslim country in Africa, of course, these are just examples. (9)

Similarly teachers/students could be sent to be exchanged between Muslim countries for further training and gaining more practical experience. This will also create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and friendship. Literacy rate in some of the Muslim countries is as high as 97.5 per cent (Central Asian Republics) whereas in Niger (Africa) the literacy rate is only 19 per cent.  In Afghanistan it is 10 percent or less after the unending Civil War. Coordination can be worked out for exchange of experience to raise literacy rate in Muslim African countries with the assistance of Central Asian Republics.
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) can be signed between Research Institutes of Muslim countries to gain experience and share results of research in the same field. For example a MoU can be worked out between Cholistan Institute of Desert Studies (CHIDS) attached to the  Islamia University in Bahawalpur, Pakistan with Arab Center for the Study of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD), Damascus, Syria. Both these institutes are working on problems of desertification, process of conservation and development. Likewise Memorandum of Understanding could be signed between Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Islamabad, Pakistan with Ankara Nuclear Research and Training Center, Ankara, Turkey. This will help two brother Muslim countries to share their research and experience in the peaceful uses of atomic energy in the field of power generation, industry, agriculture and medicine. These are just some of the examples for links/contacts between the Muslim countries. (9)

This is the age of information technology. Muslim countries can link their Universities and Institutes of Higher Learning through Internets and e-mail to share their experiences in the different fields of research and to achieve positive results. Expansion in Educational Linkage/Contacts programs between the Muslim countries could be established through the assistance of Paris-based UNESCO, Rabat-based Islamic Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Tunis-based Arab League Education, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO), Nairobi-based African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI) and such other International and Regional institutions. (9)

Muslims have entered 21st Century. It will be commendable if Pakistan takes lead to establish Education Linkage/Contacts programs between the Muslim countries. It is a fact that education is corner stone of development. It has been proved that education make a significant and positive impact on employment, earning, productivity, health and the control over population growth. Developed nations like Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan had all made considerable investment in education with the result that they achieved rapid economic growth. If the Muslim world wishes to join the ranks of the developed countries they will have to coordinate in the fields of education and research by expanding educational link/contacts programs, as education plays a vital role in development. (9)

We all know that Ummah is going through very crucial stage. At this juncture of time unity within our ranks is most important than ever.


    There is nothing in the teachings of Islam that contends against learning, against science, and against technology.  The pursuit of knowledge and scientific research is the birthright of every Muslim woman and every Muslim man.

     The rediscovery of Islamic science and technology in the 21st   century is an intellectually formidable task requiring a sustained effort over several decades.  The first step to be taken for scientific rebirth is ijtihad, to exert the utmost effort, to struggle; to do one's best to know something.  Ijtihad, after the Qur'an and Prophetic traditions, is the third source of Islamic law.

    Muslim countries should unitedly aim at applying science and technology in the building of a new Islamic civilization.  This will prevent the imbalance, disharmony and disintegration in almost every field of human endeavor such as social, economic, cultural, political or any other.  This goal can be achieved by simultaneously implementing the following:

    The Islamization of Muslim scientists and technologists who are trained by western science and technology. The training of young Muslims in Islamic science and technology. 

    Currently the problem in the Muslim countries is that the Ulema do not have any knowledge of modern science and technology and the Muslim   scientists and technologists do not have mastery of Islamic sources of knowledge. As we know the Ulema exert the greatest influence on the Muslim masses.  It appears that it is easier and practical to train Muslim scientists and technologists trained in western education in Islamic sources of knowledge instead of training our Ulema in science and technology. 

    To train our younger generation into Islamic science and technology there is a need to develop a new curricula incorporating Islamic values in science and technology and also writing of textbooks in science and technology at all levels of education: primary, secondary, and higher education. 

    Muslim countries have established organizations to meet their religious, political, economic and social needs such as the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference), Arab League, Muslim World Bank, Muslim World League, World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), etc. Organizations like COMSTECH, ISESCO should be vested with more powers and strengthened with huge funding. Therefore there is an urgent need to establish the following: 

 Islamic Academy of Sciences. 

 Think-Tank institutions to solve scientific and technological problems of the Muslim countries  

Islamic Foundations to award grants. 

Recognition of Muslim scientists. 

Establishment of Alternatives to Nobel Prizes, such as King Faizal Awards. 

Prizes for work done or accomplishments of Muslim scientists and technologists.

Islamic Atomic Energy Agency where Muslim scientists and engineers from Muslim countries can be trained in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and transfer of technology. 

 Exchange of Muslim scholars in the sciences and engineering at Post-graduate level, faculty level and senior faculty level.

 Holding of Annual Meetings at the national and international level.

    Fortunately, Allah (SWT) has given a bounty to many Islamic countries, an income over 100 billion dollars per year.  Hence, Islamic countries have the opportunity and resources to make Islamic sciences and technology NUMBER ONE in the world, once again.  Let us ignite the spark of our great achievements to be materialized in the near future. Let the Muslim scientists and engineers in the western world contribute to the health, welfare and prosperity of our less fortunate brothers and sisters in the Islamic countries by contributing our brilliance. 



1. Muslim Unity in the Face of Challenges and Threats, a speech given by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at Cairo's Al Azhar University.  The Australian newspaper, Feb. 10, 2003


2. Tuesday, 27 June 2000, UK Conference calls for Muslim unity http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/808299.stm


3. http://www.mrc.org.uk/summary.htm


4. Iqbal, Quran and Muslim Unity By Dr. Mansoor Alam, www.tolueislam.com





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