Islam and Western Society

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Author(s): Maryam Jameelah

Publisher: Adam Publishers and Distributors

Published on: Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1410 1990-01

No. of Pages: 339


This collection of ten essays, written between October 1971 and August 1975, is intended for the English-speaking, modem-educated Muslim in Muslim lands specifically and for the intelligentsia in Asia and Africa generally, in order to warn them of the fatal pitfalls of modernization; that to copy the West blindly and uncritically in everything does not provide any remedy for the social problems of the so-called "under-developed," "poor" countries of the East but rather will only aggravate the predicament in which they now find themselves in addition to creating numerous new troubles exported by the West under the slogan of "modernity." Since in these chapters, there is much overlapping of the various aspects of the same subject dealt with here, repetition could not be avoided. I only hope that the effect of this repetition on the reader will serve the purpose of emphasis rather than monotony.

The author does not think it sufficient merely to denounce Westernism as evil and inimical to the spirit of the Islamic faith and its historical culture. Rather she feels that such condemnation will have no effect on the educated reader until the all-embracing evil of contemporary life in every aspect is thoroughly exposed in careful detail . by quoting at length from Western sources. Thus the reader will not conclude that the views of the author are merely the result of her personal prejudices and narrow-mindedness but will instead gain insight into what is wrong with the modern way of life as related by recognized Western authorities in their own words.

Philosophically, this book takes its stand against the evolutionary, relativistic, secular outlook prevalent among the political leadership in Asia and Africa today which equates "change'' with ''progress'' and upholds absolute, transcendental standards as essential for the survival of civilization. In the opinion of the author, contemporary materialistic ideologies do not owe their triumph over the traditional religions and philosophies of Asia to any intrinsic superiority or inherent merit but merely to their ability-thanks to radio, television, cinema and the popular press-to outshout their rivals. Western methods of conquest were simple. As Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, himself wrote in his personal diary on May 12, 1898: "Noise is everything ! In truth, noise amounts to a great deal. A sustained noise is in ,itself a noteworthy achievement. World history is nothing but noise: noise of arms and of advancing ideas. Men must put. noise to use!" Ishi (1862-1916), the last Stone-Age survivor of an American Indian tribe in California, according to his sympathetic biographer, Theodora Kroeber, was endowed with lucid, objective insight into our failings. "He looked upon white men as sophisticated children-smart, very clever but not wise."

Many readers will no doubt ask me at this . stage: "Why condemn the West? Would it not be more constructive to concentrate on the defects, weaknesses and shortcomings of the Muslims and then simply present the teachings of Islam in an attractive and appealing manner? The Quran itself is the most eloquent testimony that the worker for Tabligh or missionary activity cannot preach Islam to non-Muslims or misguided Muslims without condemning what is opposed to it. Love cannot fully express itself without hatred for its enemy and our hatred of falsehood must be proportionate to our love for the Truth.

The adoption of Western' culture and values by increasing multitudes of Muslims is the greatest menace to the survival of the Islamic way of life (and by analogy, all non-European cultures) in history. Our very identity as Muslims and the entire foundation of our faith in Islam is being undermined by the combined technological weapons of Western ideological propaganda. The worship of Allah' and submission to His will through wholehearted obedience to Divine revelation, is rapidly giving way to a new idolatry of the crudest sort, as more and more of us prostrate ourselves at the feet of .the contemporary deities of Change, Modernization, Development and "Progress". Thus our attitude towards modernity is no academic matter of tedious ''research." It is for us no less than a question of life or death!

I do not mean to say that there is absolutely no value in any of the positive achievements or experience of the West from which we could profit. Beneficial and stimulating cultural exchange between different peoples and cultures has always been practiced universally since the emergence of man and historic Islamic civilization, located as it was at the vital crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe, was no exception. What is condemned is not normal cultural 'exchange accomplished wit~ an open, confident, critical and independent mind, but blind, indiscriminate, sterile imitation which results in cultural desolation, social and moral anarchy, defeatism, inferiority-complexes and abject slavery of the soul.

The last decades of this century have proved to everybody who has eyes to see that contemporary civilization has deteriorated into its terminal stages of decadence, strikingly similar to the decline of Rome two thousand years before. It is quite obvious to leading thinkers in Europe and America that our present civilization cannot long endure if prevailing trends continue. The question is now: what will replace it? As a Muslim, it is my conviction that Islam is the only solution. But if we .Muslims choose to erase our identity, abandon our heritage for the worship of Westernism and merge ourselves into international moral and cultural decadence, then we will have missed the last opportunity to revive the Islamic order as the salvation for men here and hereafter.

(formerly Margaret Marcus of New York)
Ramadan 1, 1395
(September 7, 1975)

(Disclaimer: This material is made available here strictly for educational purposes)

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