Islam and Modernity – I read your article with keen interest. No doubt! You are not only a terrific writer but also a passionate researcher. I noticed as a special case, the logical inferential links. Your arguments are noticeably valid and strong. I went through the reasoning you provided for developing thesis and I nearly did not find any fallacious speech there.

So for the verses you quoted form Quran, there are many other verses supporting the opposite idea, such as,

“While we intended to favor those who were held as weak in the land, and to make them leaders and make them inheritors”. (28/5)

Or

“Woe to every slanderer and backbiter.[] (1) Who has gathered wealth and counted it, (2) He thinks that his wealth will make him last forever! (3) Nay! Verily, he will be thrown into the crushing Fire”. (9/1-2-3)

Also the detailed picture of Moses’ movement against Pharaoh for oppressed Israelites, in Quran, is still the evidence that those “who were held as weak in the land”, had the favor of God for their struggle to rise, according to Quran, God bestowed Moses the strength to raise his voice against Qaroon, the capitalist and Fir ‘on (Pharaoh).

Many other verses can be quoted but it’ll be ineffectual because citing verses for explaining the Muslim World’s view seems not to be to the point.

You clearly said,

As there is no categorical consensus, what Islam actually is, the phrase chosen for this paper is ‘Muslim World’ rather than Islam”

Quran is a scripture which can have multidimensional interpretations for its impressions and meanings, how can it be taken as reference? Especially when the author has precisely defined her term and she limited it to a specific community which she called Muslim World.

Yet, I agree with your thesis and its conclusion,

“In the end, it is only to summarize the contents of above discussion in few lines that Islam is in perfect harmony with capitalism rather its foundations and roots may be traced inside the earlier Islam; hence there is no question of its rejection by Islam. However, most unfortunately Islam irrigated it very diligently and painstakingly as a nascent sapling but refused its ripe fruit in the form of liberal outlook and representative democratic institutions. Islam accepted its waste, harmful by-products or you may say least useful elements. This situation led to the Muslim world, where it is today. Poverty, illiteracy and backwardness are its fate. Oil rich Gulf and Arab states are not poor, but, nonetheless, backward in technology and education besides being highly authoritarian”.

You said, “Its (capitalism’s) foundations and roots may be traced inside the earlier Islam”. Some paragraphs before you also said while talking about the history of capitalism and mercantilism,

However, with the collapse of the Empire, mercantilism was almost replaced by feudalism in Europe, while the former (capitalism) managed to survive in Arabia by 6th century”

We know that the founder of Islam was himself a merchant by profession. His business experience was of 24 years when he pronounced himself as prophet. Even as he became a very good trade-man, he had rented his own godowns in Mecca. His closest friend Siddique was also business man. His family, his tribe, his friends, everyone around him was somehow a corporate.

Mecca was not only the city of God but also a great center of trade. The founder of Islam grew up among capitalists. If you see the capitalism as economic system based on competition between businesses, your hint towards the new start of capitalism that it “managed to survive in Arabia by 6th century” seems to be true.

However, on the whole, I saw some persuasive terms and an expression of convincing statements or denigrations in your intact intonation collectively. Especially on account of Iqbal, after giving a paragraph from his first lecture, you wrote,

“However, the same Iqbal who is so fond of modernity that he wishes to reinterpret the tenets of religion with the help of Einstein[i] appears as a staunch opponent of modernity when the allied issues raise their head. These are definitely connected with and can be solved only with the help of modernity itself”.

Iqbal “appears as a staunch opponent of modernity when the allied issues raise their head”. This claim will stay invalid unless Iqbal’s anti-modernity attitude comes up to the light in the same article.

Also as the matter of fact Einstein was literally a theoretical physicist, while you put a little foot-note linked to his name, reading, “Einstein was not a religious thinker, nor does physics deal with theoretical subjects”. Obviously physics deals with theoretical subjects moreover the modern-day-physics has been left as merely a theoretical subject at its higher level. No doubt Einstein was not a religious thinker but clearly his topic was of the highest religious priority. “The study of light”, as Iqbal rightly said was the topic of religion at the same time as it was the topic of philosophy, because three of the Semitic religions believe “God is Pure Light (Noor)”.

Iqbal said,

The theory of Einstein has brought a new vision of the universe and suggests new ways of looking at problems common to both religion and philosophy”

With your criteria, if Einstein’s revelations cannot be used to reinterpret the tenets of religion, they should not be used to reinterpret or interpret the tenets of Philosophy as well. However, Einstein’s theories are the most beautiful and the best explanations of the mysteries of universe till present day. According to Dr. Michio Kaku (while lecturing on Einstein’s theory of General Relativity) “I can’t go further with this debate because it will now bring religious matters in scene and we’ll be stuck in various religious questions”.

Theoretical physics shares its horizon with religion and philosophy at the same time. That’s why Iqbal said in his preface,

And the present moment is quite favorable for such an undertaking. Classical Physics has learned to criticize its own foundations. As a result of this criticism the kind of materialism, which it originally necessitated, is rapidly disappearing; and the day is not far off when Religion and Science may discover hitherto unsuspected mutual harmonies”.

I think Islam is totally responsible for the birth of pure materialism in history. Iqbal also favors the idea in a way, he said,

Socrates concentrated his attention on the human world alone. To him the proper study of man was man and not the world of plants, insects, and stars. How unlike the spirit of the Qur’an, which sees in the humble bee a recipient of Divine inspiration and constantly calls upon the reader to observe the perpetual change of the winds, the alternation of day and night, the clouds, the starry heavens, and the planets swimming through infinite space! As a true disciple of Socrates, Plato despised sense-perception which, in his view, yielded mere opinion and no real knowledge”.

In his address “The Spirit of Muslim Culture” Iqbal develops an argument,

Man is primarily governed by passion and instinct. Inductive reason which alone makes man master of his environment, is an achievement”

And again he writes,

The birth of Islam, as I hope to be able presently to prove to your satisfaction, is the birth of inductive intellect”

Materialism begins with quests in nature and ends with the denial of God. Viz a materialist ultimately converts to an atheist. Islam did this thing to itself by properly adopting the inductive method of gaining knowledge.

This is why Iqbal asserts,

“The Prophet of Islam seems to stand between the ancient and the modern world. In so far as the source of his revelation is concerned he belongs to the ancient world; in so far as the spirit of his revelation is concerned he belongs to the modern world”

So if materialism is curse, it is Islam who brought this curse to humanity. A non-stop quest after nature, of early Muslim World received the benefits of materialism at their times. They would have never felt modernity as a threat if WWI would never have been imposed. As you mentioned in your article and also historian Peter Watson said,

World War I marks the end of the main Islamic modernist movements and that this is the point where many Muslims “lost faith with the culture of science and materialism”

Muslim world quickly adopted the modernity in beginning. Ottoman Empire seriously paid attention to. Napoleon occupied Egypt by the end of eighteenth century. Within only three years Egyptians were happily welcoming the Enlightenment.

Anyhow! Your article is one of my favorite writings. I appreciate this research wholeheartedly. You have been successful to generate the knowledge and change the previous pictures of readers’ minds. I agree with this conclusion as a special case,

“Most unfortunately Islam irrigated it very diligently and painstakingly as a nascent sapling but refused its ripe fruit in the form of liberal outlook and representative democratic institutions. Islam accepted its waste, harmful by-products or you may say least useful elements”.

…..

Well! That was feed-back. I am sorry if I understood anything wide of the mark.

Don’t forget me whenever you write something.

Maybe, it’s the spirit of your diction, I am feeling well today J. Thanks

 

Take care!

 

[i] Einstein was not a religious thinker, nor does Physics deal with theological subjects. (Author)