This is an essay on “What Islam has to offer the modern world” for CSS and PMS. This essay is about the impact of Islam on the modern world, and also it offers so many things to the modern world.
Essay on “What Islam has to Offer to the Modern World”
According to Islam, man is to be conscious of certain truths of life and to think and act in conformity with them. These verities are expressed in the form of a few doctrinal beliefs in the unity of God, revelations of God brought to mankind by a chain of prophets, the last in the line being the Prophet of Islam, the unity of mankind, accountability of one’s deeds as this life is not an end in itself but is a gateway to an everlasting life of the Hereafter.
It asserts that the universe is not an accidental phenomenon nor did its objects and forces come into being by themselves just by the passage of time, nor has the universe been created in vain but for a definite purpose and man, as the viceregent of God, has to play a definite role in the scheme of things.
Man’s most fundamental belief is belief in one God, not in a vague, distant or amorphous being but an intensely real and approachable, though transcendental, Being, the Creator and Sustainer of the world, the most Compassionate and Merciful, and Powerful, Omnipresent and Omniscient besides whom there is no other god, the Sovereign and the Supreme, who is nearer to man than his jugular vein, who is All-Knowing and Ever Watchful, who encompasseth everything but is Himself beyond all comprehension. Its monotheism is universal, absolute, and unconditional and every other belief and every other doctrine flows from this concept.
Islam is not, however, only a spiritual attitude of mind nor a code of sublime precepts, but it is a self-sufficing orbit of culture and a social system of well-defined features. It not only undertakes to define the metaphysical relations between man and his creator and prescribes beliefs, but it also lays down rules of personal conduct and social behavior. In fact, it is an all-embracing code of life establishing, on a systematic and positive base, the fundamental principles of morality and precisely formulating the duties of man not only towards his creator but, also towards himself and his fellow beings.
Its concept of life does not exclude notions of happiness in the shape of material welfare in this world. It demands no renunciation of the world, nor does it prescribe austerities for spiritual purification. Its concept is enunciated in the Quran. Our Lord gives us the good in this world and the good in the Hereafter. At the same time, it does not subscribe to materialistic trends but rouses in man a consciousness of moral responsibility in everything he does.
There is no sphere of activity of man which may be outside the pale of Islamic morality. The two fundamental factors, which constitute the essentials of Islam, are belief in God and righteous living in consonance with it. Man has a dual responsibility to discharge. The first is the duty he owes to God and the second is the obligation to mankind. The former expresses itself in a process of self-development – physical, intellectual, and moral, and the second lies in developing a social conscience and consideration for others. The two responsibilities are two facets of one and the same attitude towards life.
The modern world has seen tremendous strides in the pursuit of science and the development of technology which has brought immense comfort to mankind. They have reduced distances, enabled easy communication, made great advances in education, promoted health, hygiene, and sanitation greatly improved techniques of agriculture, increased production, saved much toil and labor, and have set up a whirling pace of progress. But in the scale of life, its advantages are outweighed by its disadvantages or weaknesses, which were introduced to human life.
With all its glamour, it is dominated by the gospel of acquisition, which knows only one positive religion which is the worship of material progress. Modernity has bred a human type whose morality is limited to the question of practical utility. Power has become the sole criterion of greatness and the source of all power is wealth.
Modernity is not an abrupt growth. It started as a reaction against an irrational brand of ecclesiasticism passing for religion in Europe, a decline of the true religious spirit and the decadence of civilization, and the rise of materialism. The thinkers of the day could not distinguish between the responsibilities enjoined by religion and the inflexibility, despotism, and misrepresentation exhibited by the ecclesiastics.
A number of outstanding social and political writers had indiscriminately sowed the seeds of materialism in the minds of the people and had laid emphasis on the Epicurean way of life. Machiavelli paved the way for divorcing politics from ethics and prescribed a dual standard of morality – one private and the other public.
Karl Marx developed the doctrine of class struggle to maintain that the state of man is the product of economic conditions under the influence of which all otter life phenomena had received form and imprint. He recognized only the economic aspect of human existence and repudiated the validity of all other factors like religion. ethics, soul, and even intellect. The economic pantheism admitted no religious endeavors, no spiritual movements. Modern society became schizophrenic by the unfortunate struggle between reason and religion and the development of a pathology that is reflected in the very quality of life.
Scientists interpreted the material universe and its manifestations along mechanical lines and called it the objective and the scientific method, thus rejecting slavery to tradition whatever was based on belief in the existence of God.
Everything was repudiated that was not realizable in experience or could not be weighed or measured. Only two things were considered relevant, that is, matter and energy. The progress of science and technology no doubt opened new horizons and brought great comforts to men. But at the same time, they have been utilized to develop colossal engines of destruction and to build up tremendous military power which, if set in motion, can wipe out humanity from the face of the earth.
The civilization generated by materialism became static after the achievements of the Magna Carta in Britain, the principles of the French Revolution, and the rights of the individual freedoms that were laid down at the beginning of the democratic American experiment.
It exhausted its limited usefulness because it was cut off from its original source without which social order, principles, and values could not survive. Comfort, brought with the aid of scientific discoveries and technological growth, was mistaken for civilization. In the words of Joad, “Science has given us power fit for the gods, and to their use, we bring the mentality of schoolboys and· savages.” Science and technology are not the generators of civilization. Unless our existence reaches beyond the frivolities of materialism and becomes a life enriched with meaning, science and technology will only be trappings of modernity and not hallmarks of progress.
What is particularly lamentable is that materialism has generated an attitude marked by disregard of transcendental truths want of religious feeling or spirituality and the worship of
material comforts. This attitude enveloped the western world in the web of its own aberrations and consequently mental and emotional traumas.
Modernity strove hard to replace religion with secular conceptions having their own implications, institutions, and organizations. It aims at undermining. the vitality of the ideological ideals, and has succeeded in breeding extravagance, and voluptuous indulgence and belief-in superfluous illusions and counterfeit values. It presents no abiding ideals or permanent values and principles that can lead mankind to real progress and development.
Religion, however, functions in society as the philosophical mooring that determines the fiber of life. It is just not a conglomeration of a few ethical principles or rudimentary rituals fr perfunctory performance nor even an emotional feeling that stagnates in the depths of the heart. It is not in its nature to be stored in a restricted corner of life and be labeled as a personal aﬀair. Human nature is more profound, more refined, and more permanent than the passing phase of materialistic civilization.
So often we hear that this or that idea, principle, or value, is no longer pertinent to the world and the essential reality of the doctrines and ideas of permanent signs are overlooked. Whatever is not considered fashionable or convenient is considered irrelevant or unimportant. It is this climate of thought which ignores or rejects the perennial and permanent truths that are most dangerous and lead man to fatuous illusions.
A sense of the sacred is, however, indispensable for any civilization for what is sacred is immutable and infinitely more majestic, meaningful, and permanent. The aim of knowledge at a certain point in time is not absolute or static as human knowledge is always increasing and developing.
If secularization could only mean that heterogeneous society is comprised of people of different faiths and creeds, the state, as such, has no religion, and people of every religion are free to follow their own religion and religious practices and could advocate tolerance between them, it would have been a happy state of affairs. But over-secularization has come to mean a clear division between the spiritual and the mundane, depleting things of their spiritual significance and negative freedom verging on anarchy.
Islam does not believe in the dichotomy between the spiritual and the mundane. the other-worldly and the temporal. According to it, every activity of man has a spiritual significance. whether positive or negative.
Islam presents a view of life that is sacred and grants freedom under submission to the Divine Will. Today man is in need of a social order that enables humanism to justify its existence as ordained by its great Creator and to activate the powers of the mind, science, and experimentation for the establishment of a system appropriate to the real needs of mankind.
The pertinence of Islam to the modern world is that issuing from the All-Knowing and the absolutely Real and serving as the message of the Heaven, it takes care of everything and provides for a balanced life and an equilibrium between spiritual and material needs. It is the direct call of the Absolute to man, inviting him to cease his wanderings in the labyrinth of the relative world and to return to the Absolute.
For so long the West has been dominated by the evolutionism of the nineteenth century but more and more of its scientists and scholars have begun to rediscover and confirm the permanent nature of man and his needs and to focus attention on the permanent elements, to which the Islamic message addresses itself most directly.” The quest for meaning, which is as essential as the need for food and shelter is in reality the quest for the ultimate or the absolute. “Religion provides precisely this meaning and in a sense, it is the shelter in the storm of the multiplicity and indefinite cosmic manifestations and the uncertainties of the temporal and terrestrial existence.”
Islam does not discourage scientific studies nor the development of technology. On the contrary, there are numerous verses in the Quran that exhort man to study and understand the objects and forces of nature and the laws governing them, to learn the lessons of history and the fate of past civilizations. It exhorts man to acquire knowledge. The very first revelation of the Quran begins with:
“Recite in the name of your Lord who created everything. He created man from a clot. Recite as your Lord is most Beneficent. Who taught to write with the pen Taught man what he knew not.”
In the Quran, there are dozens of scientific indications about which man had no inkling fourteen hundred years back. Acquisition of knowledge is a duty cast by Islam on every man and woman which has been stressed in almost innumerable sayings of the prophet. One of them says:
“Acquire knowledge, it enables the possessor to distinguish right from wrong. It rights the way to Heaven, it is our companion when friendless, it guides us to happiness. it sustains us in adversity, it is a weapon against enemies and an ornament among friends. By virtue of it, Allah exalteth nations, and maketh their guides in good pursuit, and giveth them leadership so much so. that their footsteps are followed, their deeds are imitated. and their opinions are accepted and held in respect.”
In spite of sustained growth, development, and world domination, western civilization failed to provide mankind with a viable framework of social harmony, moral and spiritual fulfillment, satisfaction, and international peace. Its greatest achievement, that is, tremendous advances in science and technology has destroyed the moral fabric of human personality and society, and has led to mortal conflicts and tensions at all levels.
Because of the application of the theory of evolution to all spheres of life, the universality and permanence of man’s nature were not acceptable to the scientific mind. All values were considered relative and not absolute. The focal point was lost and the focal center shattered. As Y.B. Yeats predicted in The Second Coming:
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. With a gaze as bleak and pitiless as the sun, the mysterious sphinx attacked all concepts of God, man, and nature and created a nightmare of confusion.”
Islam does not discourage nor restrict any endeavor to make material progress, for no level of material progress or economic development is in itself antagonistic to moral or spiritual progress. On the contrary, a certain standard of material progress is essential for the evolution and maintenance of a desirable social pattern. It exhorts the individual to make all efforts at its achievement, but he has to be conscious of the fact that a materially prosperous life is no! end in itself and that a high standard of living has no value in itself.
Today man is crying for peace, but how can peace prevail when society is bedeviled by selfish interest, greed, exploitation of the weak. lust for power and a desire for the extension of his sphere of influence.
Today a global war is held up only by the danger and fear of devastating reprisal. Peace can result from equilibrium and harmony brought forth by integration issuing from Tawhid. If a man does not consider his needs beyond earthly existence, if the sacred meaning of life is not understood, terrestrial life will always be in danger. Islam provides equilibrium between the spiritual and temporal and emphasizes the necessity of giving each thing its due, of preserving each element at its place, and of guarding the just proportion between things. That alone can save mankind and lead it to its ultimate goal.
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