Iqbal’s Vision: Rise of Islam & Decline of West

Iqbal’s poetry became the inspiration for the creation of  Pakistan, which changed the lives of millions of people, and turned the tides of history. Central to his thought is the vision of the transformation created by the message of Islam in the lives of the plain and simple dwellers of the desert. He foresaw the revival of this message in many of his poems — for example


The lion, from the desert, which over-turned the thrones of the Romans — I have heard from the angels that he will re-awaken.

Both Shikwa/Jawab-e-Shikwa and Musaddas-e-Hali paint the picture of the former glories of the Islamic civilization, and how modern Muslims have completely forgotten their past, and the message which illuminated the world, and created a brilliant civilization which dazzled the world for a thousand years. However, Iqbal foresaw the end of the era of Western domination –


Your civilization will commit suicide with its own dagger(knife) === The nest built on the weak branch will not be permanent, stable
Since Ibn-e-Khaldun started the systematic study of history with a deep analysis of the causes of rise and fall of civilizations, this has been a favorite topic among historians. Many historians have stated that all the signs of declining civilizations have now appeared in the Western Civilization, and thus it is time for emergence of a new world leader. (See my article on the Rise and Fall of Civilizations). Sociologists are predicting an Asian Century, and predicting the emergence of China and East Asia as the new leaders of the 21st Century. However, at these turning points in history, leadership passes to those who are best prepared for it — the characteristics required of leaders are spelled out in the Quran, and have been demonstrated for us in the Sunnah of the Khulfae- Rashedeen. Iqbal has listed the required characteristics in many different verses. For example he writes that (Yaqeen Mahkam …) Strong Faith, Perseverance in the Struggle for the Good, and a Love which conquers the world — these are the swords used by those who would rule life itself. Another verse along similar lines, which predicts the rise of Islam, is given below:
Actually, leadership of the world is promised to the Muslims ON THE CONDITION that we are true to our faith — we have the characteristics of love for the welfare of the entire humanity which was in the heart of our Prophet, who was the Mercy for All Nations, and who suffered grievously because he deeply felt compassion for all others — whether they were Muslims or not. Today, we have come very far from the model of simple living with excellence in conduct that was the hallmark of our Prophet, Mohammad, May Allah T’aala shower him with infinite blessings.
In this post, I just want to list some of the characteristics which have appeared in the Western Civilization which are signs of the decline of the West. While there are many different types of lists of characteristics of decline which have been made, the following article provides a convenient summary. I just list the ten points very briefly. The reader can follow the link to the article to see the details:
  1. Nihilism: The idea that life has meaning and purpose has been lost. For my experiences along these lines, see Social Revolutions.
  2. Drugs: When life seems meaningless, people seek new experiences to fill the void in their lives. This leads to experiments with drugs which create new sensations. The article linked above states that: By the year 2000, opium production in Afghanistan had nearly ground to a halt. But after US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the pretext of 9/11, production started reaching record highs. In what’s surely an unrelated coincidence, the American opioid epidemic has spiraled out of control since 2001.
  3. Rising Financial Inequality: Today, the top 60 people own more wealth than the three billions poorest. Increasing inequality is reflected everywhere. X-UN Secy Gen Ban Ki-Moon says that US society is deeply immoral because basic healthcare is denied to vast numbers of the poor, when trillions of excess in wealth is readily available for foreign wars which bomb and destroy millions of other lives. Millions living in misery while a few enjoy billionaire lifestyles reflects a spiritual deficit, a lack of feeling for fellow human beings, which is spreading throughout human societies. (See Amazing Inequalities)
  4. Erasure of History: People have lost their connections with the past. History defines who we are, and gives us a sense of mission, continuity, and a vision for the future. Imagine what life would be like if we forgot our past — we would be just like robots without character. Today, this is a common condition. For a longer essay on how our knowledge of history has been deeply distorted, and how we need to correct this problem to reclaim our human identity, see my essay: History: The Conquest Song of the Victors.
  5. Extreme Injustice: Legal systems in the US routinely ignore police violence — many famous incidents of police killing poor minorities without any excuse have been featured recently. This has led to the creation of the movement “Black Lives Matter” in the USA. On the other hand, minor crimes, like failing to pay a parking ticket due to poverty, can lead to prolonged jail sentences (but only for the poor). This is in stark contrast with the high standards of justice which Islam brought to the world — do not let enmity sway you from justice, and be just, even if it goes against your self-interest and that of your kinfolk. For more on this theme, see “What the World Lost Due to the Decline of Islamic Civilization.”
  6. Destruction of the Family: Today, the majority of children are born to woman who are not married. Children who never experience a stable family environment where they receive love, nourishment, stability and support, grow up with many different kinds of psychological deficiencies and disorders. See my webpage on “Family Breakdown in the West” with links to many articles on the topic.

You may like to read the other points on your own, from the original article. It does seem that, as Iqbal foresaw, Western society is self-destructing, by following their own desires to the extremes with complete disregard of consequences to others, or to the future generations. Unfortunately, instead of rejecting these errors which are destroying the West, we Muslims are eagerly embracing the same errors and rushing to adopt them in our lives and societies. The dagger which is likely to be the cause of the suicide of the West is also cutting our own throat as well. Instead of thinking about the decline of the West, the urgent task today is to protect our fast fading Islamic values, to work to re-create an Islamic society on the model of Madina. This can be done by renewing the promises that we made to Allah T’aala to live for Him and to die for Him, and to be first among those who Surrender completely to His Will.



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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.

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