The Second Crisis of Knowledge among Muslims

14 Centuries ago, Islam Created A Revolution in the world. Teachings of Islam catapulted ignorant and backwards Arabs to world leadership. The teachings of Isalm led to the creation of a unique civilization which dominated the world for a thousand years. [shortlink for this post: – older az2nd]

The QUESTION of BURNING IMPORTANCE IS: Are these teachings relevant/valuable today? The answer, given in the ten-minute video, is also presented in the 1000 word summary below:


1000wd summary of Second Crisis of Knowledge:

Do the teachings of Islam have the same power today as they did 1400 years ago?

Unfortunately, Muslims today think that these teaching are NO LONGER relevant. They do not have the same power today to transform our personal lives and world, like they did 1400 years ago. It is indeed true that “Islam came as stranger, and will become a stranger” – the true teachings of Islam have become “strange” to the Muslims.

Islam brought us many Revolutionary Ideas, which Muslims no longer understand, or act upon. Islam created a new way of thinking about the world, society, and human beings. Our prophet Mohammad SAAW was a living demonstration of  “Excellence in Conduct”, and he came as a “Mercy to the Nations”. He taught us that the Strong should protect the weak, and that the Rich should give excess wealth to the poor. He taught us the concept of Social Responsibility: As a society, we are collectively responsible for all members. The core and the center of these teachings transformed men into human beings, realizing the potential within hearts for excellence in conduct that everyone is born with. These teachings, now forgotten among Muslims, created an Unequalled culture of peace, harmony, tolerance.

Brief History: History forgets nations which forget their history. Unfortunately, today most Muslims do not even know the Islamic date today (tareekh), let alone an outline of the 14 centuries of history of the Islamic Civilization. This is essential background required to understand our present condition. We present a short sketch of some essential unknown and forgotten elements.

Fall of Andalus (Islamic Spain):After 700 years of advanced Islamic Civilization in Andalus, wealth and luxury led to decay, degeneration (illustrating the wisdom of the Prophetic SAAW saying that I do not fear poverty for you, but I fear that the you will be ruined by pursuing worldly pleasures created by wealth and luxury). While the Muslims were wallowing in luxury, the Europeans were in their dark ages of their own Jahilliya, continuously at war with other, and developing fighting skills and technology. It has been an age-old pattern in history that youthful energetic barbarian tribes conquer and pillage advanced decaying civilizations. The Europeans RE-CONQUERED Spain and acquired a vast Treasure of Knowledge; millions of books in the libraries of Andalus.  It took them Two Centuries to assimilate SOME of this knowledge. They picked up the technical parts about medicine, chemistry, physics, astronomy etc. However, the MOST IMPORTANT parts of this knowledge, which dealt with training and transformation of  human character and spiritual development, were NEVER absorbed/understood.

Rise of Europe:  Continuous warfare in Europe led to a Military Revolution, with inventions of weapons and military tactics superior to anything in the rest of the world which was living in peaceful co-existence. As the Europeans realized that they were poor and backwards, while the rest of the world had lots of treasures and advances, they stopped fighting each other and turned to looting the world. The Nineteenth Century was an unusual century of peace in Europe, as Europeans stopped fighting each other to conquer 85% of the world. They achieved this conquest because they were skilled in violence, ruthlessness, and deceit taught to them by their philosphers like  Machiavelli, Hegel, and Nietszche – these people taught that morality did not exist, and only the weak were bound by rules of morality.

Since underlying lust for war was not extinguished, after completing global conquest, the Europeans started fighting each other again, leading to the deadliest (20th) Century humanity has ever seen, with more than 50 million people killed in the two world wars.

The barbarism continues today in the form of continuous warfare, where the USA kills innocent civilians on a daily basis, spending trillions of dollars on its armies, while accusing others of terrorism, and spending trivial amounts on social welfare of its own citizens (leading to the poverty of the bottom 90%). Today, the globe remains in a state of Continuous Warfare, and the dominant morality is the Law of the Jungle, according to which the power to destroy a nation gives you the right to destroy. Accordingly USA and European bombs have destroyed many peaceful economies, reducing prosperous nations like Libya, Iraq, Syria, Chile, Yemen, Palestine and many others to primitive conditions where people who once lived in comfort are now living in camps and in exile.

European Ideas Dominate: Today, because the USA and Europe dominate the world, their ideas also dominate our thoughts. These barbaric, pre-Islamic ideas are the same as those of the Jahilliyya: Life is about Luxuries. Strong have right to exploit the weak. Rich have no responsibility towards the poor. Today less than fifty people own more than half the wealth of the entire planet. Furthermore this concentration of wealth is Increasing. In direct contradiction to the message of the Quran, modern economic theory says this is justified. Just like Qaroon used to say about his own wealth, economic theory says that wealth accrues to the wealthy because of their talent, intelligence and skill.

Economic theory, widely believed and accepted by muslims, teaches anti-Islamic theories.  Life is about maximizing consumption. Economics is about growth. People are naturally selfish. Selfishness leads to efficiency. Ruthless Competition creates efficiency in markets. All of these lessons go against core Islamic teachings of cooperation, generosity and social responsibility, taking care of each other.

Unfortunately, Muslims in Shock-&-Awe of the West, discouraged and defeated by losses on the battlefield and on other fronts, accept whatever the West says without thought or criticism. The 2nd Crisis of Knowledge is the name for modern Muslims’ acceptance of whatever the West admires, and their attempts to find similar concepts and justifications from Islamic sources. If West admires democracy, then this become the teaching of Islam. If West says that selfishness is good, we find that this to be the message of the Quran. As was prophesied in Hadeeth, if the West is crawling into the holes of snakes, we are following right behind them. Most fundamentally, muslims believe that the path to development lies in following the west, and the message of Quran no longer has the power to change the world like it did 1400 years ago.

In fact, even today, Islam offers a radically different framework to think about human beings and society. One of the main messages of Islam as that we must Work together as a community, instead of everyone for himself. Uniting the hearts of the Ummah is the source of strength. Achieving this goal requires creating transformations in character as demonstrated during the early periods. Because Islam has become a stranger to the Muslims, the Message of Islam has same revolutionary potential today as it did 1400 years ago.

See also, closely related post: The Modern Mu’tazila; For slides and links, see Advanced Micro – Lecture 15

This entry was posted in Eurocentric History, Islamic Knowledge by Asad Zaman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Asad Zaman

BS Math MIT (1974), Ph.D. Econ Stanford (1978)] has taught at leading universities like Columbia, U. Penn., Johns Hopkins and Cal. Tech. Currently he is Vice Chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. His textbook Statistical Foundations of Econometric Techniques (Academic Press, NY, 1996) is widely used in advanced graduate courses. His research on Islamic economics is widely cited, and has been highly influential in shaping the field. His publications in top ranked journals like Annals of Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, Econometric Theory, Journal of Labor Economics, etc. have more than a thousand citations as per Google Scholar.

5 thoughts on “The Second Crisis of Knowledge among Muslims

  1. Sir I agreed with you but how can Muslim unite if Europe and USA have hagominic power as we say in political economy hagominic stability they but Islam is good hagominic power but unfortunately we not act sir how can it possible now days to implement basic Islamic economy Islamic economic system even

  2. Pingback: مسلمان معاشرے میں علم وفن کا انحطاط – علم وتحقیق کی دنیا

  3. Pingback: Urdu Blog and Posts | An Islamic WorldView

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