We are Often Unaware of our Indebtedness to the Islamic Civilization,
says Hewlett Packard Chief
Posted: 27 Rajab 1422, 15 October 2001
Carly Fiorina, the CEO of Hewlett Packard, recently gave a speech defining the
relevance of leadership in today's world. Here is the quote from the final part of her
"I'll end by telling a story.
There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.
It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and
from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of
millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.
One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge
between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many
nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that
had never been known. The reach of this civilization's commerce extended from Latin
America to China, and everywhere in between.
And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects
designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and
algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption.
Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers
looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and
Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its
poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept
them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this
civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.
While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I'm
talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman
Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman
Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts
are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the
contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our
notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance
and civic leadership.
And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on
meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a
very diverse populationthat included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions.
This kind of enlightened leadership leadership that nurtured culture,
sustainability, diversity and courage led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.
In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building
societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must
focus on the importance of leadership bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal
acts of leadership."
For the full speech, please go to: