Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|The Road to Mecca|
|09/21/01 at 08:13:30|
I was reading Muhammad Asad's 'The Road to Mecca' the other day. I found these paragraphs very profound and interesting. Had our muslim generations given heed to his words.........
Never before, I reflected, have the worlds of Islam and the West come so close to one another as today. This closeness is a struggle, visible and invisible. Under the impact of Western cultural influences, the souls of many Muslim men and women are slowly shrivelling. They are letting themselves be led away from their erstwhile belief that an improvement of living standards should be but a means to improving man's spiritual perceptions; they are falling into the same idolatry of 'progress' into which the Western world fell after it reduced religion to a mere melodious tinkling somewhere in the background of happening; and are thereby growing smaller in stature, not greater; for all cultural imitation, opposed as it is to creativeness, is bound to make a people small...
Not that the Muslims could not learn much from the West, especially in the fields of science and technology. But, then, acquisition of scientific notions and methods is not really 'imitation'; and certainly not in the case of a people whose faith commands them to search for knowledge wherever it is to be found. Science is neither Western or Eastern, for all scientific discoveries are only links in an unending chain of intellectual endeavor which embraces mankind as a whole. Every scientist builds on the foundations supplied by his predecessors, be they of his own nation or of another; and this process of building, correcting and improving goes on and on, from man to man, from age to age, from civilization to civilization: so that the scientific achievements of a particular age or civilization can never be said to 'belong' to that age or civilization. At various times one nation, more vigorous than others, is able to contribute more to the general fund of knowledge; but in the long run the process is shared, and legitimately so, by all. There was a time when the civilization of Muslims was more vigorous than the civilization of Europe. It transmitted to Europe many technological inventions of a revolutionary nature, and more than that: the very principles of that 'scientific method' on which modern science and civilization are built. Nevertheless, Jabir ibn Hayyan's fundamental discoveries in chemistry did not make chemistry an 'Arabian' science; nor can algebra and trigonometry be described as 'Muslim' sciences, although the one was evolved by Al-Khwarizmi and the other by Al-Battani, both of whom where Muslims: just as one cannot speak of an 'English' Theory of Gravity, although the man who formulated it was an Englishman. All such achievements are the common property of the human race. If, therefore, the muslim adopt, as adopt they must, modern methods in science and technology, they will do not more than follow the evolutionary instinct which cause men to avail themselves of other men's experiences. But if the adopt - as here is no need for them to do - Western forms of life, Western manners and customs and social concepts, they will not gain thereby: for what the West can give them in this respect will not be superior to what their own culture has given them and to what their own faith points the way.
If the Muslims keep their heads cool and accept progress as a means and not as an end in itself, they may not only retain their own inner freedom but also, perhaps, pass on to Western man the lost secret of life's sweetness...
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