A Brief History Of Civilisation|
In the name of Allah.
Recent scientific theories and discoveries, from the ‘Theory of the Big Bang’ concerning the origin of the universe to the ‘Mind within the Gene’ concerning decisions and actions by the very basic form of life, have all either explicitly or implicitly concluded that everything works in an order that defies the laws of physics. The only one who can defy such laws is the one who made those laws. Thus The Almighty says:
“We shall show them our signs in the horizons (in the universe) and within themselves (in their genetic make up) until it is clear to them that it (the Quran) is the truth. Is it not sufficient that your Lord is the witness over all things?”.
According to the laws of physics, chaos is the only possible outcome from any process in the universe. Thus the systemic order within the universe in general and within living systems in particular can only be forced into existence by a power which is external to the universe. That power is the power of God. The Almighty says:
“God holds the heavens and the earth not to perish and when they perish no one else can hold them into existence after He lets go of them”.
A number of articles calling for the abandonment of religion and criticising Islam have been published on this web site. Due to the subjectivity of the criticism those articles contain a great deal of contempt reflecting lack of substance.
No doubt that writers of such articles are driven by different motives, and in general they may be categorised into three distinct groups according to their motive.
There are those who thrive on challenge regardless of the subject matter and irrespective of how much or how little they know about the subject. Usually they formulate and opinion before they grasp the core of the argument. Fortunately for most of them, it is a psychological condition which can be treated with behavioural therapy.
The second group are those who have acquired reasonable knowledge of Islam, but they have a hidden agenda. They intentionally want to mislead people for various reasons, but primarily they associate misleading others with self-preservation. The psychology of this group is complex and is beyond the scope of this article.
Amongst the methods they employ is one where they would quote Quranic verses meant for specific incidents and apply them to different situations or worst still, they would conceal the true interpretation and come up with what appears to be the meaning when the quotation is taken out of context, so as to show that there is a contradiction either in the Quran or in the Prophet (PBUH)’s behaviour, in order to sway those with little knowledge away from their intrinsic belief in God and leave them faithless.
It is usually pointless to debate with or even acknowledge those, because they are inherently compulsive liars. They tell lies about God while concealing the truth. In their blind pretence, they intentionally ignore all that which constitutes the bulk of the evidence for the divinity of the Quran and select what they perceive as contentious issues to argue their case. It is like trying to prove that a diamond is not a diamond because it contains carbon atoms and as such it must be a piece of coal. They seem to believe that other people’s scope of vision does not encompass more than one atom at a time and hence they think that people could not see the entire crystal.
They should know that each and every claim they have made had been made in times well before them. In fact even before the time when Noah (PBUH) built his Ark, it was said to him “ We can see that only the lowest amongst us have followed you”.
If those people are sincere in their quest for answers to their questions, they could direct their questions to the right people. They would then obtain convincing answers with compelling evidence, but they are not seeking answers and their motive is sinister.
The third group are those who blame Islam for lack of progress of Muslims. They believe that had it not been for following Islam, Muslims could have joined the 21st century civilisation and would have by now ranked amongst the front runners in their strive for success. Sadly, this latter group is criticising one thing for the fault of another, but it can only be assumed that their intention is noble since they are motivated by a desire to better others.
However, it is culture and the environment, not religion that are the real reason behind the problems that Islamic societies face in the modern world. ‘Environment’ in this context relates to all that which is available to a society to utilise as well as conditions imposed upon it, but remains largely beyond its direct control. However, when a society reaches a certain stage of advancement it can, to a certain extent control its environment. In fact the degree to which a society can control its environment affects the span of time over which it maintains its success.
Whilst the variables that influence success or failure are numerous and varied, culture and the environment are perhaps the most significant factors. In order to appreciate their significance one needs to test the extreme cases i.e. the boundary conditions. Civilisations can be considered an example of one extreme of social success while dire situations like those that exist in some parts of the world today can be considered as the other extreme.
Like the gradual formation of ice, a civilisation develops over a period of time before it takes shape. In the case of ice, crystals begin to develop in isolation, then each grows in size to join one another to form the ice block. The availability of ‘water’ at the right environment ‘correct temperature and pressure’ are critical to the growth of those crystals. Likewise civilisations are the product of culture and environmental factors. However, unlike the ice crystals, mankind each has a mind of his own and therefore they need leadership to direct them.
In management terms, given the correct environment, the sense of need (be it material or otherwise) drives people to work and if their work is managed correctly and their effort is channelled in the right direction, then there is no reason to fail to form a strong team. On an individual’s level, the sense of need is perhaps sufficient for achieving an objective. But on a populous scale, the correct cultural and leadership are extremely important to bringing people to work towards a common goal.
In cases where the environment does not encourage a culture of group effort, members will remain perpetually working in isolation until the need for a group effort (largely dictated by the environment) come about, thus giving rise to the start of cultural changes and the emergence of a leadership. In most cases, significant changes in the environment (planned or accidental) are the only way to bring about cultural changes. Those cultural changes and the environmental conditions MUST impact on people’s minds in such a way that those involved can clearly see the benefit in working towards a common objective, hence the incentive to work together.
However, the over all objective of a group must not contradict the objectives of the individuals within that group. In other wards, the objective of the group must be stream lined in such away to allow each individual to identify and to achieve his or her objectives in the process of working towards the common goal agreed to by the group as a whole not imposed upon them.
To give an example, if the objective of a group is to build a fishing boat in timber to increase their catch and timber happens to be a scarce resource, one can not expect some individuals’ objective is to burn timber to cook their dinner. At the same time the leadership should not expect the individuals in the group to go hungry. A solution has to be negotiated so that each achieves his objective before the overall objective is attained.
Furthermore, each individual in the group must believe in the greater personal benefit of the common goal. Failing that, each individual would want to use the timber for a different purpose and no common goal is likely to be agreed upon.
In the absence of environmental conditions that dictate the need for change, a leadership has only the old method of bringing about cultural changes from within, namely the carrot and the stick. The order of application is of the essence depending on the prevailing culture. Thus in some cultures the carrot first then the stick, while in other cultures the stick then the carrot. In some case no stick is required and the carrot alone would suffice.
The abandonment of religion is a false premise, because in truth religion calls for culture monitoring to sustain civilised societies. The rise of the USA was on the back of strong belief in Christian values, which formed the cultural change ingredient in their current civilisation, which began after the civil war. Later the heavy investment in science and technology resulted from the need to react to external environment namely the world war and the need for technological advancement to beat the enemy and necessity is truly the mother of invention.
When the wheel of civilisation starts to roll and develops momentum, its gravity attracts all within its sphere of influence, but as time passes cultural and environmental obstacles begin to loose the wheel its momentum. It then starts to sway from its trajectory and ends up curling over the same place then finally it falls motionless. Thus monitoring the environment for undesirable changes is extremely critical. The factors that affect the span of time within which civilisations prosper depend on amongst other factors on maintaining cultural values within which group dynamics is synchronised.
Culture is about the way people conduct themselves in ever walk of life and their attitude towards their fellow human beings. Culture is acquired in the home and the community and is not taught in schools. A constructive culture is one in which the members acquire a conscious belief that they are accountable for all that they do and say. For if they do not believe that they are accountable to a superior power, then unfortunately most people will not heed warnings from others regardless of who the others are. If the opportunity to make material gain surfaces regardless of its moral consequences, then unfortunately many people would take their chances. When selfishness becomes a common place, trust between individuals is lost and the end begins to loom.
The same happens when the environment becomes uncontrollable and the overwhelming attitude is for self-preservation, then the culture takes a step back and the civilisation begins to wobble. Ultimately, societies that were once part of that civilisation would begin to disintegrate, living conditions would deteriorate and communities will ultimately disappear.
If one feels that by living the life style of the West one can become civilised, then one needs to think again. Civilisations are more than a life style. The life style is only a spin off. Civilisations begin as a result of a group effort by dedicated few who manage to help the rest see the same vision, work hard to reach it and be part of it.
There are many people in the undeveloped world, who adopted the life style of the West including to some degree their political system, yet they are not getting anywhere in life. The same is true of some communities that live in the West. They continue to suffer from illiteracy, poverty and disease. When one is caught in this vicious circle it becomes almost impossible to get out of it with out serious external help to manipulate the environment coupled with willingness on the part of the community to change their old habits and acquire new ways of doing things. However, in cases where such harsh conditions are combined with corruption at the top, there is very little if anything that can be done.
On the other hand there are countries that have been blessed with much wealth, but neither the people nor their rulers can agree on a common goal. In many cases the wealth constituted a curse more than a blessing because at best the material incentive has ceased to motivate those in the leadership and at worst material gain became the only objective. Their opposing efforts negate each other and it is not an over statement to say that in such cultures ‘to give ground’ equals ‘loss of face’, which is culturally unthinkable to accept. Such culture inhibits the emergence of true leadership and teamwork.
Although there exist a lot of hard working people in those countries, they have failed to bring about the necessary cultural changes and develop incentives to motivate people. They failed to agree common goals and since they do not truly believe in the urgency of the situation, they carry on bickering and never give ground for progress to take place.
The problems facing Islamic communities are inherent in culture, upbringing and acquired attitude to life in general. Escapism and hiding behind the vale of religion is unfortunately a common practice amongst many Muslims, because they find an easy way out of their responsibilities. Instead of saying ‘The outcome is in the hands of God’, they would say ‘All is in the hands of God’, with intentional misconception, so that they deceive themselves to awaiting divine intervention.
They should know that even Miriam mother of Jesus (PBUT), when she gave birth to Jesus (PBUH), she was instructed to shake the palm tree so that dates would fall on her. God could have made dates fall on her without the need for her to move. But although she hadn’t the slightest chance of making a palm tree move let alone shake, she had to put in the effort. The essence is that she has to instigate the action, then God will take care of the outcome.
Unfortunately most Muslims, including some who reside in the West do not as yet realise the need to do any thing and may feel that they can have a free ride on the back of other people. On the other hand, an increasing number of Muslims all over the world have managed to break away from the cultural grip of their communities and have become very successful, yet remain practising and God fearing individuals contributing a great deal to the human society in whatever field they happen to operate.
It can only be concluded that the notion of religion leading to backwardness is a false premise. It is about time that we as Muslims criticise our culture to stop others criticising Islam, and when the culture changes for the better everything else would fall into place. And on this subject God says
“God does not change what has befallen people until they change what they contain within themselves (their attitude and culture)”.
Having said all that, only God knows the true cause and effect.
A Libyan residing in the UK