Western Culture and Islam

Western Culture and Islam by B. A. Rafiq There was a time when Western influence in all spheres of life ruled the day. Asia, Africa, America and even islands like Japan and others in the Pacific, Atlantic and the Indian Oceans were under an all-pervading domain of the West. Great Britain prided itself on “Brittania rules the waves, ruleBrittania” and “never shall the sun set on the British Empire”. Only a few years ago, President Reagan dismissed pleas by the Third World for assistance by stating that’ ‘These countries had a lot to learn from the U.S.A.” The Third World had found itself in the grip of a world recession caused by a pursuit of stringent monetary policies so that no matter how much it produced, it only became poorer day by day. The whole of the under-developed world related to the Western standards — was under the cover of Western culture. Not only was the West its ultimate ruler but had imposed its own culture on the indigenous people. Eastern countries which have had the maximum exposure to a culture heavily influenced by religious dogma were made particularly vulnerable to a concerted propaganda, the essence of which was that their religions were a hinderance to their progress whereas the more “modern and progressive” Christian nations were the rightful heirs of the promises made by God in Deuteronomy (33:13-16). Herbert W. Armstrong, quoting Deut 33:13-17 in “The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy” (Ambassador College Press 1967), argued that the United States and Great Britain were in fact the purpose of this prophecy: “And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath; And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun; And for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills; And for the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof . . . let the blessings come upon the head of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh bo th) . . . His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns (Great Britain’s national seal today): with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh (33:13-17) . . . What nations fulf i l these prophecies? Why only Great Britain and America? (p. 153)”. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 8 Consequently, so the argument ran, their emancipation and spiritual and wordly progress lay in the adoption of Christianity and the following of the Western culture and not in the backward faiths of the East; their only salvation lay in the denunciation of the faith of their forefathers and their acceptance of Jesus as their Lord; a heathen should not be appointed to a post but a Christian should, because “he believeth in the Lord”; they should abandon their names and be called by Christian names only, a bitter legacy of which still exists among the American slave; they should dismantle their own garb, be attired in a more modern Western dress and anyone who did not, was outclassed as backward; they should also be educated in Western schools and colleges and only trained personnel from these institutes be allowed to teach the philosophy of Western thinkers and philosophers; they should abandon their customs and rituals in favour of Western customs and traditions. Thus, life in the colonial era developed with the wooing of the pagans and non-believers to Church missionary schools which were heavily financed from Europe. There they lined up for the morning assembly with the Lord’s prayer, repeated daily. When someone fell sick, he went to a Church-run clinic and if he wanted a job, he had to be a Christian. In the schools they were taught the language of their masters; the names of Christians who “discovered” some feature of their land which forever assumed their name. Streets were given Christian names and people were taught that they were backward before Christianity opened their minds. They were taught that other religions practised slavery while in reality, Christianity started slavery in Africa on a most heinous scale. They preached ungodliness and atheism; plundered the colonies of all riches; sowed the seeds of discrimination, vice and corruption and won converts with their military and monetary muscle. Before we proceed further, let us clear up one matter. Although Islam has had a running battle with Western culture and influence as explained below, it has no fight with the Europeans, or people of individual countries, some of whom display lofty standards of Islamic virtue e.g. punctuality and honesty — though it has to be admitted that with the growing influence of the West, even these virtues are rapidly eroding. It is wrong to paint Europe as bad but the underlying torrent of Western culture conflicts with Islam in the same way that oil and water can never mix with each other. Islam, for instance, teaches observance of the prayers at set times and is therefore foremost in demanding punctuality. An all too casual approach by some Muslims has made them poor at this virtue and it requires immediate attention by all Muslims to this discipline. Western philosophy is based on athesim and the plurality of God. It left no stone unturned in ridiculing the omnipotence of God. The minds of Eastern thinkers had been so brain-washed that in India a creed arose which outwardly was Indian but in its mind chanted the philosophy of the West. Those who somehow escaped this onslaught became vulnerable to doubt and suspicion. A 9 WESTERN CULTURE AND ISLAM large group bowed down to naturalism and considered the reasoning facilities of man superior to revelation. Thus, for them, if something was beyond human reasoning, it was unacceptable. They totally rejected revelation and divine communication just as much as they rejected the acceptance of prayers, miracles and the existence of God. To them, the credo of religion was no more than a process of thinking and fear which could never bring about a reformation or major change in the life of man and which stood as a great impediment in man’s progress. The wind of change in Western influence was so powerful and its trend so attractive to a poorly educated Muslim majority that even those who had their roots in orthodox and pedantic dogma got swept away by this deluge and they started developing an apologetic attitude in defence of their faith. Instead of presenting the beauties of their teachings or its completeness, they adopted a milder approach, so much so that the faith was so heavily watered down that one could barely recognise it. What could be discerned was a philosophy akin to the West. For them, there was only one norm and that was to compare the commandments of God with accepted Western ideologies and to close the chapter by packaging Islam with its similarity to such ideologies. This approach by various leading occidentalists has done the greatest harm to Islam, and has been instrumental in diverting the new generation further away from its true teachings. To them, the only good faith was the one based on Western philosophies: if other faiths stood up to this norm, they were worthy of acceptance, and, if not, they were worthless. This era of the decline of faith continued for two centuries. Young students, educated in their own cultural values were sent abroad for further education; heavily indoctrinated in the West; returned home to be paraded up and down among the people as the broad-minded emancipators. Those who got scared by this influence, shut the doors of further education on their children. Education, therefore, remained the greatest stumbling block in the progress of these new Muslims and shall continue to remain so as long as a proper system of education with an equal emphasis on religious and secular subjects does not evolve in the Muslim countries. During this era, no Muslim philosopher of renown emerged nor did a scientist or an educated elite arise to challenge the couched attack made by the orientalists against Islam on their pet indulgence in subjects ranging from polygamy, slavery, separation, divorce, harems, force, diplomatic immunity, Jihad, punishments for theft and adultery, etc. They presented Islam in such a fashion that those attracted to it shied away and those in itrejected their faith. In brief this was the dark age in the history of Islam and other oriental religions. Now that this culture is at its ebb and Eastern nations have been liberated from their political subjugation, they themselves have begun to reflect on their culture in retrospect and isolation. Like a cancer it grew till it left all limbs REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 10 heavily diseased. The manner in which this culture brought about the material wealth to humanity and its cruelty to moral and spiritual values in the same breath are the bitter pills that the West has to swallow as this cancerous growth rebounds on it. After this somewhat copious introduction, let us now examine the internal organs of this culture which at one time rose to world dominance. The most potent evil that confronts the West is that of racial discrimination. Even Professor Toynbee attributes the weakness in the spread of Western society to its inability to deal with social harmony (Fikro Nazr August 1981 P 10). In this century, Hitler rose from Germany to implant the superiority of Nazism and his fascist regime sought the fulfilment of their ambition by putting the German nation as the ruler of the world. As this propaganda spread like wildfire, the Jews were exterminated in the ensuing holocaust and millions of people were killed in this social struggle. Not only was the end of the German people bitter, but generations after bore the consequence of the fascist transgression. Alas, despite the lessons of the holocaust, the West learnt little from the Second World War. Once again a wave of neo-fascism sweeps across the continent of Europe with the social minorities particuarly vulnerable as the scape-goats of the anger felt at the policies pursued by the West. England, which for centuries was renowned for stability and tolerance finds itself gripped by a “National Front” committed to the removal of the ethnic minorities and, but for its attack on the monarchy, making political inroads. In the black areas victims of growing unemployment, shops were looted and houses and cars set alight. The British police which prided itself in being an exemplary force with excellent community relations and able to cope with public riots became victim to complaints of partiality and racialism not just from the dissident groups but from politicians as well. The Scarman enquiry found the police guilty of ignoring the rights of the black people and recommended that the government had a duty to practice positive discrimination in favour of the black people. Mind you, this perhaps marks only the beginning. As newspaper reporters, unable to control their feelings, urged the local inhabitants to further animosity, to compel the ethnic minority to take the law into their own hands. The evil of such a magnitude would be on a scale hitherto unimaginable in that part of the world, or as Mr. Enoch Powell so graphically puts it, Britain would be swamped by a people who are not British by origin and rivers of blood would flow through the areas where they are heavily concentrated. The slogan of racial superiority is by no means limited to the shores of Britain but can also be traced in those former colonies and dominions where Britain once ruled. The apartheid policy of South Africa is perhaps the greatest testimony of Christianity’s failure to unite the people under One God. And for 11 WESTERN CULTURE AND ISLAM that matter, the facts are not hidden about the treatment of the American negroes. Similarly, some time ago, British Sunday papers were filled with advertisements inviting people to migrate to Australia’s sunny climes. When I tried to obain further details, hoping at least to get some literature, much to my surprise, I was told point blank that this offer only applied to those Britons who were white and not to those who were British by birth or naturalisation. The West is thus a promoter and victim of racial discrimination, and, unless introduced quickly to the universal teachings of Islam, where there is no discrimination of any kind, the day is not far when the people will find themselves entrenched inracialdiscordor inthe wordsof Mr. Enoch Powell, in a land where rivers of blood may flow. Only Islam can prevent this civil unrest. Islam brought equality to all human beings fourteen hundred years ago and taught that racial differences exist only for ease of discourse. All are brothers unto each other and no one is superior to another because of caste, colour or creed. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in his farewell sermon, laid the foundation of human rights and dignity and knit all mankind into a single brotherhood. In this principle alone lies the true salvation of the West from the problems it has created for itself. Following is the full text of the memorable address delivered from a camel’s back by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be on him. “O ye people! listen to me with attention for, I do not know whether I shall be able to speak to you again hereafter; “O ye men! Do you know what month is this?; what place is this?; what day is this?; The people replied, “Yes, we know. This is a sacred month, the month of Zulhijjah, a sacred place (Mecca) and a sacred day (the day of pilgrimage).” Thereupon the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) said: “Just as this month is sacred, this place is sacred and this day is sacred, even so God has made the life of every man and his property and honour equally sacred. To attack his person, property, honour or dignity is as sacreligious as wanton disregard of this month, this place and this day. “You shall soon meet your Creator and shall be called upon to render an account of your deeds. Everybody who holds a trust should faithfully return it to its proper owner. “This day all money transactions involving interest are completely banned. You are, however, entitled to get back your principal, so that nobody undergoes undue suffering. All interest due to Abbas Bin Abdul REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 12 Muttalib (the Prophet’s uncle) is scored out and all murders committed in the days of ignorance (i.e. before Islam) are forgiven and their retaliation disallowed. And to begin with, I forgive the murder of my uncle’s son, Rabeeah bin Harisa bin Abdul Muttalib. “O ye men! Satan has lost all hope of ever being worshipped again in this Arabian penninsula. But he would be obeyed in minor matters which you would deem unimportant. So beware of him in matters of religions. “O ye people! You have some rights over your wives as they have over you. Your rights in them are that they have chaste life and do not admit into their homes anybody whom you dislike and that they do not fall into manifest evil. If they do, God permits you to keep them away from your beds in order that they may improve and mend their ways. You may even resort to such light punishment as may not produce any harmful effect on their body. But, in case they do no such thing, you are duty bound to arrange suitably for their food and clothing according to your means. Well remember! your treatment towards wives should be righteous and kind, for, they are in your custody and cannot safeguard their rights. The day you married them, you considered them as a trust of God and you brought them home according to His injunctions. “O ye people! understand my words thoroughly. I have done my duty and conveyed the message to you. I am leaving with you two things, namely, the Book of Allah and the way of His messenger (the Sunnah). So long as you hold fast to them you will never go astray. Mind you! There are still some prisoners of war in your possession. Remember, they too are your brethren. Feed them with what you feed your own selves and clothe them as you clothe your own persons.” “Hearken, ye people and pay heed to what I say! Let this not be ever forgotten that every Muslim is a brother of every other Muslim and all Muslims are brethren among themselves. It is not permitted for a Muslim to encroach in any way upon the property of any Muslim.” “O ye men! You have all One Sustainer and you are all progeny of Adam. And Adam was born of clay. An Arab is in no way superior to a non-Arab. On the contrary, as human beings, you are all equal, no matter to which rank or race you belong to. He who is more righteous among you is nearer and dearer in the eyes of God. “Whatever I have said to you today should be conveyed to the corners of the world. Happily, those who do not hear from me directly might act better than those who listen here today.” The second problem confronting the West today is that of permissiveness which has made such serious inroads into the Western family life that the very moral fibre on which it is structured is in tatters and the day is not far when its pillars will come crumbling down. 13 WESTERN CULTURE AND ISLAM Some fifty years ago D.H. Lawrence wrote the erotic Lady Chatterley’s Lover filled with filth and sexual perversion. At first, this censored publication was read in hiding but in 1960, the famous publishing house of Penguin Books published it and released it on the market. The moment it was released, decent minded citizens felt incensed and in protest, sued the publishers. The judge, Lord Byron, appointed a jury of nine men and three women who on 20th October, 1960 gave their verdict that the book did not encroach upon the indecency laws. Instead of condemning D.H. Lawrence, this permissive revolution hailed him as the greatest author. A Roman Catholic Conservative party MP, Mr. Norman St John Steevas, regarded by some as the father of parliament, stated: “I would put Lawrence among the great literary moralists of English Literature who was essentially trying to purge cleanse and reform.” Similarly, the great theologian, Dr. John Robinson, a leading member of the Church of England policy committee stated: “Something sacred — an act of holy communion! Lawrence’s description of sexual relations cannot be taken out of context of his quite astonishing sensitivity to the beauty and value of all organic relationship. I think the effect of this book is against rather than for promiscuity.” After this decision, it did not takelongto commercialise and capitalise sex. A deluge of profane and indecent books and pornographic magazines swamped the market. The decision uprooted the tottering edifice of the hypocritical Victorian attitude of the society and paved the way for the permissive revolution. The Profumo Scandal opened the doors for the lower and middle classes to copy the ways of life of the upper classes. Those who opposed were classed as backward and mentally deranged. The mini-skirt revolution set the swinging life into motion. Indecent, profane and pornographic films, pictures and material, which left little to imagination, began to be sold in the high street. To meet this demand the most weird and single track material emerged from the continent with child pornogaphic photographs, etc. The law was unable to cope with the undefinable change in morality and the publishers tested censorship to the limit. One could say that the funeral of moral values was led in this promiscuous background and it appeared that apart from sex, Britain had no other interest. The decline in moral values had stooped so low that the institution of marriage was being treated as obsolete and redundant, by many respectable factions who discouraged the institution of marriage. It was frequently predicted that the ritual of marriage ceremony, which itself had undergone changes from the ancient Christian vows, would eventually die R E V I E W OF RELIGIONS 14 out and that Miving-in-sin ‘ would become an accepted norm. Those who believed in the sanctity of marriage were much heartened by the marriage of their heir apparent Prince Charles to Princess Diana, as the decline of the marriage contract has destroyed the concept of mutual marital relationship and family-life and had resulted in broken families; uncared and unwanted children; wife and child battering, etc. The psychological burdens placed on unloved children brought with it juvenile delinquency of varying degrees which borstal homes were unable to cope wi th . Promiscuity breeds lawlessness, and the increase in violent crimes of the most heinous nature has rendered the streets unfavourable for a walk in the dark without being mugged or molested. Today is not an age to bring up young female children in the West. Even the overcrowded prisons are unable to deal with this situation and the sharp, short deterrent punishments which at one time were scoffed at, as being barbaric are being seriously considered by those charged with maintaining law and order. The promiscuous society has also bred the hippie movement and its camps. Its counterpart, the “skin heads” represented the dual standard of Western culture. The hippies are themselves not violent but do not recognise any moral limits. In their personal lives they are abhorred for being dirty and unkempt. Theft, the selling of personal honour, homosexuality, lesbianism and a total disregard of cultural values are hallmarks of their existence. Skinheads on the other hands are given to violence. Destruction, murder and violent crime is their speciality. An area visited by them bears the signs of their destruction and the British society has become totally fed up with them. Of late, a new generation of “punk rockers” and “mods” has erupted with weird hair-styles and preference for music. All such movements are a reaction to the empty and wayward culture of the West. Deeply disturbed by this change for the worse, when a newspaper reporter condemned these trends, a rejoinder by their spokesman stated that by calling them drug addicts and iresponsible, the reporters were giving vent to their anger when they themselves, in their own times were immersed in such practices as alcoholism and sexuality; it was argued that there was no difference between drug addiction and alcoholism as both relieved the mind from the responsibilities of society. Thus the West is heavily encumbered by its carnal pleasures and waywardness and the teachings of Sigmund Freud (the father of all those vices) hang like a noose round its neck. Another feature which has been instrumental in causing the decline of the Western culture is the economic and social inequalities inherent in its system. We have seen how this culture fails to promote family life. Why, it is a practice among even the well-to-do families to push the elderly people, who could possibly give some guidance based on their vast experience of life, to the “old people’s homes” and thus rid themselves of the onus of looking after them when they are least able to do so. It is a common saying “1 did not ask to be brought in this world “. Now they can look after themselves. The Western economic system is least capable of providing for the genuine needs of those 15 WESTERN CULTURE AND ISLAM citizens who are least able to procure it. The poor are becoming poorer and the purse which used to provide aid even with strings attached is unable to stimulate its own economy. Its economic system is based on a no-risk basis in the form of interest and insurance. As a result, it finds itself with massive debts and its credit system is on the verge of crumbling. On the one hand there are those who are immensely rich and on the other, there is a huge millennium of homeless, destitute and poverty-stricken people. A new breed of lay-abouts, cheats, others who make crime pay and look for sordid gains has emerged as the final testimonial to the West. The destruction of the educational system is the dire consequence of the West’s preponderance in the evils enumerated here. When that goes, nothing else is left. But that is a different subject altogether. ISLAM and HUMAN RIGHTS by SIR MUHAMMAD ZAFRULLA KHAN This scholarly study by the learned author is an attempt at a comparative study of Islam and The Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. It presents vividly the Islamic point of view on this world famous declaration of human freedom and liberty. THE LONDON MOSQUE, 16 GRESSENHALL ROAD, LONDON, S.W.18 THE MUSLIM PRAYER BOOK by B. A. RAFIQ A 64 page book which deals with Islamic prayer in all its details. It covers the philosophy of prayer, the times of prayer, prayers in the Quran, prayers of the Holy Prophet, as well as Islamic mode of worship with i l lus t ra t ions. The prayers are beaut i fu l ly printed in the original Arabic, together with their trans- literation and translation. Price 50p (excluding postage) LONDON MOSQUE 16 GRESSENHALL ROAD, LONDON, S.W.18