A Must Read For All Muslims Aspiring To Modernization
I must tell you that I am very proud of you. What you wrote below is a masterpiece of understanding; I recommend that all Muslims read it. It really does not need any additional information to buttress its thesis. However, let me add my own take on what Muslims need to do to join the modern world.
Muslims must undergo the process the West did to become secularized and open minded. I am sure that you understand the process the West went through but since this is an open forum I am assuming that there are those who do not, so I will take the opportunity to rehash the process of Western modernization.
At American Universities there are courses called Western civilization, usually a three quarters course at those universities that have quarter system. Such courses take you through how the West travelled to become what it is today. Interested readers can take such courses and or buy and read books on Western civilization. Let me reiterate the central themes of such courses.
Western civilization is generally traced from Sumer (current Iraq). We review what happened there, especially the beginning of agriculture (the domestication of wild wheat and barley), the discovery of writing and the wheel, the taming of certain animals, such as the donkey and the horse (those two animals played crucial roles in human civilization).
The Sumerians, by the way, called themselves black people (that might interest you, my dear Africanist). We know that Semitic and Caucasian people from the Caucasus then began trekking into the area (the Akkadians, the Hittites, the Assyrians, Persians and later those we now know as Jews and Arabs settled in Sumer, mixed with the Sumerians, and later replaced them as the rulers of that first civilization). For our present purposes, human civilization supposedly began in Sumer, aka Mesopotamia 6000 years ago.
From Mesopotamia we go to Egypt. I am sure that you know a lot about the ancient Egyptian civilization that flourished on the Nile Delta five thousand years ago, especially the building of elaborate burial monuments called pyramids.
Egyptian Kemet religion is currently the darling of African-Americans who are trying to return to African religions but refuse to come to West Africa to study Yoruba, Igbo, Ashanti religions (their real people’s religions).
These African-Americans, apparently, rejected both Christianity and Islam and wanted a religion that belongs to their people. However, for some reasons they got hung up in seeing ancient Egyptians as their people. Ancient Egyptians probably looked like today’s Ethiopians, brown, but that does not mean that we should uncritically see their religion as our religion. Even if Kemit is African religion, religion like everything else is dynamic and changes. There is no reason why that religion did not change in five thousand years. Thus, if you want African religions you should study contemporary African religions, not ancient Egyptians so-called religion. That Egyptian religion is mostly a reconstructed story, that is, largely made up, make belief and is not true.
Ancient Egypt contributed to Western civilization; that is the salient point.
Then we move on to Persia and Greece. Persia is only relevant to Western civilization because of its wars with Greece (remember Darius, Xerxes etc.). In so far that we are interested in the march of the West let us focus on Greece and ignore Persia and Babylon.
The Greeks were formed by a group of Europeans called Dorians; those settled on the various Aegean islands and on the Greek mainland and formed core Greek city states such as Athens, Sparta and Macedonia. Sparta was known for its marshal spirit but it was Athens that formed the auspicious beginnings of Western civilization.
I am sure that you have read Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, and Sophocles plays and grappled with what happened in Greece when as if by magic it took off in all directions. I am talking about the various schools of thought that sprout up: the stoics, the Sophists, the Epicureans and others.
On the Island of Miletus Democritus posited that the atom is the smallest indivisible part of matter. Pythagoras speculated on the nature of the universe. Hypocrites began the science of medicine. Archimedes discovered the laws of floatation and buoyancy. Amazing thinking took place in that little country called Greece.
In Athens’s Sophists went about engaging people in logical thinking (that is, syllogism: major premise, minor premise and conclusion must all agree). Let us see how it worked: you say God exists; the sophist would ask you to prove it and would take your proof apart and keep arguing with you until you realize that whatever you say about God is mere conjecture, yours or ideas you received from other people, hence you are merely making noise when you talk about God.
In Sophist circles emerged the greatest sophist of them all, Socrates. The man asked questions until he demonstrated that most folks are talking nonsense when they think that they have made a solid argument.
Consider the concept of Justice. What is justice? Who defines it? God? Does God exist or are you projecting your understanding of justice to what you call God? Let us not go there, I mean to God and instead talk about justice as we understand it in the here and now world. It would take us years to understand what justice is (read Plato, especially The Republic and Phaedo to appreciate Socrates dialogues).
One of Socrates students, Plato wrote immortal works, collectively called idealistic philosophy. Plato assumed that there are perfect ideas, archetypes of whatever exists on earth in the spiritual world, ideas that we ought to search for and use to judge what we see on earth.
Plato was threatened with death and he was not about to let Athenians murder another philosopher, as they had made Socrates drink the hemlock for corrupting the youth of Athens, getting them to debate incessantly about subjects that did not place food on the table; he ran to Syracuse (in Sicily, now Italy).
With Plato out, Aristotle became the primary philosopher of Athens. Unlike Plato he gathered evidence; he tried to base his universals, truths, on empirical evidence rather than assumptions of what supposedly exist in spirit land. Aristotle gave us the beginning of science, if by science is meant the basing of knowledge on empirical evidence, observation and objective perception of phenomena.
From Greece we move to Rome. Rome did not contribute much to knowledge (philosophy). But Rome did give us the art of government and military science (folks like Seneca, Cicero, Plinny the younger, and Marcus Aurelius wrote treatises on government); Rome also gave us some literature such as Virgil’s Aeneid, and the immortal poems of Ovid and Horace. I should also say that Rome gave us the neo-Platonic philosophy of Plotinus (some say that Plotinus is African but lived in Rome during the first century AD...see his seminal work: Ennead).
Around 450 AD German barbarians sacked Rome. The fall of the Roman Empire created a power vacuum and the Roman Catholic Church emerged to superimpose its darkness (which it called knowledge) on the people.
For our present purposes, Europe went into darkness in the sense that Greek and Roman learning were driven out and the superstitions of the Christian Church replaced them. There were no new ideas in Europe until Muslim Arabs entered the picture.
As you already know, in 610 AD Mohammad (570-632) began having hallucinations (?). He was a poor young man who married a rich fifty something year old woman, Khadija and suddenly had money and did not have to work for a living and thus took to going to the hills and spending his time in caves, meditating. He said that an angel of God, Gabriel (do angels exist or was the man a plain schizophrenic) told him certain things. What the angel told him formed what is now called the Koran. Mohammed was illiterate and dictated his verbal ejaculations to this friend, Abu baker (the Koran is a channeled material, the type of stuff that suffuse new age religions...see Helen Schucman’s A course in miracles, Jane Robert’s Seth Speaks and Robert Monroe’s Journeys out of body).
Mohammed taught that there is one God, Allah and that he is the last prophet of that God (the Seal of the prophets); he taught that people must submit to Allah. Since he is the self-assigned mouthpiece of Allah, in effect, people must submit to his, Mohammed’s will or be killed.
The folks of his hometown, Mecca, literally thought that the man went nuts, drove him out of Mecca and he ran away to Medina. While at Medina he formed a militia and with that army began forcing people to embrace his religion under the sword (Mohammed thus began the first jihad; he was a jihadist...killing those who do not agree with your religion and establishing a theocracy where only your idea of God prevails and is implemented by the government, no separation of church and state allowed; sharia morality and law imposed on believers and non-believers).
Thus, right from the beginning Islam used violence to convert people to its synthesis of Christianity and Arabic religions. Islam was not, has not and is not a religion of peace; from its inception Islam was based on violence. Those who allow themselves to be hoodwinked and bamboozled into seeing Islam as a religion of peace are badly misinformed.
I do not have the time to cite passages in the Koran that asked followers of the camel driver turned prophet of God to murder those who do not accept Mohammed’s superstition.
Mohammed’s followers used the sword to convert to Islam what is now called the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Quetta, the United Arab Emirates, Persia and Palestine) and in the late 600s swept into North Africa. They took Egypt, and then what are now called Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
Arab Muslims struck east and went as far as India, China and the Turkistan world and converted those folks to their religion.
They (711 AD) moved into Spain and Portugal and got to Southern France by 731 AD. Germans (Franks) battled them and at the famous battle of Poitiers in Southern France prevented the Mohammedans from taking over all Europe.
The Mahomets stayed in the Iberian Peninsula for eighth hundred years (until 1492 when finally Ferdinand and Isabella pushed the last Muslim out from Spain).
From North Africa the Maghreb Muslims struck south and converted some Africans living in the Sahel to Islam: Nubia, aka Sudan; Somalia, Parts of Ethiopia, Ghana Empire, Mali Empire, Songhai Empire, Kanem-Bornu Empire, Hausa States, Fulanis etc. were all converted to Islam by 1000 AD.
In the meantime, the Muslims learned from the writings of Plato, Aristotle, the sophists, stoics, Epicureans etc. they obtained from Alexandria (Egypt)...Alexander the Great had conquered North Africa in 300 BC and the city of Alexandria was named for him).
Arab Muslims went to India and took Indian thought (the number 0, for example is an Indian invention). Arabs did not invent any new knowledge but took what they got from the Greeks, Indians and Chinese and massaged them a bit and that propelled their civilization to its apogee; at one point they were at the zenith of human civilization, thanks to borrowed knowledge.
Thereafter, the Turks became Muslims and replaced Arabs as the leaders of the Muslim world. Turks took Constantinople in 1453 and converted Turkey, which was then a Christian world, to Islam. In the old world Turkey was called Asia Minor; it was there that Saint Paul did most of his Christianizing writings; Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity there in 315 AD and thereafter forced the Roman Empire to embrace the superstition called Christianity. (See the Council of Nicaea of 325 AD.)
Turkish Muslims conquered the Balkans (Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania, Slovenia and Macedonia); they even got to the gates of Vienna before a resurgent German army drove them out. (Imagine civilized Germans converted to Islam, a religion meant for seventh century primitive Arabia! That would be travesty of the first order.)
Muslims brought Greek and Roman knowledge back into Southern Europe. Thereafter, the Italian renaissance began; that is, Italians rediscovered ancient Greek knowledge). We had folks like Dante (Divine Comedy, Inferno), Thomas Aquinas (Sumna Theologica...he used Aristotelian philosophy to give the Catholic Church a theology...Aristotle had argued that there must be an unmoved mover, for, he thinks that the chain of causation cannot go on forever...Aquinas said that God is the unmoved mover, the first cause...there is no evidence for unmoved mover, so he did not prove the existence of God, never mind...go take a course on the philosophy of religion and read about all the arguments supposedly proving God’s existence, none of them did, read Anselm, Erasmus, Meister Eckhart, Aquinas etc.).
The West rediscovered reasoning and folks began to think. In the 1400s Geoffrey Chaucer began clubbing words together into English novels, Marlowe followed suit and fiction writing was given birth in England.
In Germany, Martin Luther fired the first shot in what became the Reformation of the Catholic Church when in 1517 he posted his 99 theses arguing that the Pope cannot possibly be infallible in interpreting the will of God. Luther argued that each individual ought to be able to read the bible and decide what it means to him.
Luther talked about finding salvation by faith in Jesus Christ as ones savior and not by ones works (does that mean that a Christian does not have to be a moral, good person and as long as he believed in Jesus he would go to heaven?). He talked about how one does not have to think that just because a Catholic priest forgave ones sins...by selling indulgences...that one would be saved.
Luther’s lose talk led to folks all over Europe saying what the bible meant to them and starting their churches; as a true theocrat what Luther actually meant was that his own interpretation of the bible was the correct one, not the masses interpretations; we know this to be the case for he joined forces with various German princes in massacring people who did not accept his Lutheran interpretation of the bible!
John Calvin told folks how to find salvation by working hard and becoming rich. All kinds of lunatics started their own churches based on their interpretations of the Bible.
Henry the eight liked to have sex with many women, there is nothing wrong with that, so he kicked out the Catholic Church that told him that he had to limit his libido to one woman and started the Anglican Church (of England). Up north the Scots started the Presbyterian Church. We already had the Lutherans in Northern Germany. Mr. Wesley started Methodism; Mr. Fox started Quakerism. Others started Baptist churches.
All hell broke loose and just about every European crazy started his own Christian denomination (we now have thousands of them!).
Europeans felt free to interpret the bible as they saw fit and the mother (murder) church did not like what was happening, for it was losing power to keep folks in darkness and hence control them, and got King Philip of Spain to launch wars to reconquer Northern Europe for Catholicism. Think of the 1588 Spanish Naval armada sent to invade England and reconvert it to Catholicism (the English were saved by stormy weather that scattered the bloody ships). Think of the 100 years’ religious war that killed over half the population of Germany.
These religious wars wrought havoc in Europe but by the time the smoke cleared in 1648 (Treaty of Westphalia) Europeans had done away with the power of the pope and established the nation state as the new center of power in the human polity.
In Italy Nicollo Machiavelli wrote the Prince telling us that men rule others out of their quest for power and control not because God made them do so?
In England Thomas Hobbes told us something about our selfish nature in his Leviathan. Thereafter, were such giants in human rationalism as John Locke, David Hume, George Berkeley, Adam Smith, David Ricardo and literary folks such as William Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austin, Anthony Trollope, and a host of other writers? For our present interest, the point is that Englishmen began using their minds to understand phenomena, not the bullshit that religions vomit as knowledge.
In France Renee Descartes fired the first shot of rationalism (he said that there is spirit in our bodies hence dualism), Voltaire made fun of the Church (see his Candido...if God exists why does he allow earthquakes and other natural disasters that kill people, why allow some men to screw others etc.), then the great neurotic genius called Jean Jacque Rousseau emerged to challenge the ancient regime with his books arguing that only the people’s will legitimizes governments, not some fantasy divine rights of kings to govern the people; there is no such thing as God, so kings are not the stewards of non-existent God (social Contract, Emile, Confessions etc.). Add Blasé Pascal, Diderot, Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo, Saint Simon, August Comte, Emil Durkheim, George Sorel and other French observers and the French Enlightenment was underway. The French rationalists threw away religion and used pure reason to decide what is good for people.
As the English and French were giving us logical positivism, empiricism, the Germans were giving us ponderous idealistic philosophies (read Leibnitz, Emmanuel Kant, George Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Fred Nietzsche, and Feuerbach; in literature read Shilling, Goethe and Novelis).
The Russians remained primitive until the nineteenth century when the Russian genus for convoluted thinking emerged (I am talking about Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky).
What all these add up to is that people in the West gradually began using their minds to understand the nature of reality. As such secular humanistic knowledge emerged the Church authorities pushed back. The Catholic Church fought to retain its superstitions over the people hence rules them.