(Draft Article) Objection: “Why do you Muslims want to throw the world back to the Dark Ages?”

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By MuslimAnswers.net Team

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

There have been a multitude of times when Muslims hear the objection from non-Muslims along the lines that: “Why do you fundamentalist Muslims wish to throw your countries and the world at large back to the barbaric Dark Ages? Are you people really so myopic?”

We would begin our answer by noting that there is a built-in problem with calling the period when Islam was revealed as “barbaric” and of the “Dark Ages”. With respect to the use of the term “barbaric”, we notice that, at least in terms of denoting people of a different culture and time, most will fall back to considering their own culture, time, and values as superior and all others as brutish, savage, and “barbaric”. However, transporting these ideas onto the discussion field serves no purpose, since the objector merely projects himself as unwilling to engage in fruitful discussion concerning the basis of his worldview, even while claiming that he is interested in conversation and dialogue.

The case is somewhat similar when we consider the use of the term “Dark Ages”. First of all, this epithet was mostly used in a derogatory manner to describe certain periods of European Christian history, and thus it is not known how this term arbitrarily gets carried over to the dawn of Islam and Islamic civilization in general. Besides, the term “Dark” was meant to signify, among other things, a lack of historical records concerning certain portions of Christian Europe, while the Islamic religion is known for its meticulous preservation of the religion and its history through oral and written means, so this characterization is doubly puzzling.

But this brings us to the main objection we have to the term “Dark Ages”, which is that it supposes a transition from the darkness of religion and its rules to the light of naturalism and freedom from religion in toto. Hence the term “Enlightenment” – even if modern historians consider the term “Dark Ages” pejorative, the use of “Enlightenment” still projects this idea to a large extent, since there can be no enlightenment without previous darkness and dormancy.

Thus, we simply do not accept that following of the Islamic rules constitutes a “reversion to darkness”[1]. We also do not hold that humanity I necessarily on a forward trajectory towards progress. This last assumption is based on thinking that economic and scientific progress is a determinant of overall human progress, and that extending human longevity is an ultimate goal in and of itself.

While Islam does look favorably at one who has been granted a long life, this is only if one’s deeds are also good. This is also borne out by the narration of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), where he mentions that the best of people is the one whose life is long and his conduct is good. The inference in here being that a long life without good deeds is disastrous. It is something analogous to having a large sum of money, in that there is no goodness in that unless if it is earned through legal means and spent in legal means, for otherwise the money will become a curse for the person on the Day of Judgment. While most people can understand the necessity of earning and spending money wisely, they think of life as a “positive-only” asset, while this is not a correct assessment as far as Islam is concerned.

Thus, even if we were to concede that applying the Islamic laws in full would result in the dramatic decrease in the average lifespan of the human, this would still not automatically mean that the application of Islam should be dropped as an overriding concern, since a short life spent in the obedience of Allah is infinitely more profitable than a long life spent in disobedience of Allah and His revealed religion. It is obvious that in this last case, the disbeliever would have been better of living a short life and facing a relatively lesser punishment in the Hereafter.

Then again, we see that all of this goes back to the dichotomy between the modern worldview and the Islamic one. The Islamic view is that this life, no matter how long it is, is only a journey towards Allah. If we can extend our lives through the apparent means available to us, there is no problem in that, but we will nevertheless also face death whenever it arrives with grace and humility, since this is what Allah has decreed for everyone, and there is no escaping from Allah’s plan.

But the modern worldview considers the individual human being as the goal in itself, since it does not accept (at least implicitly) the existence of a Divine Being who brings about every thing and event in the Universe. Thus, there is  pursuit of trying to achieve “Heaven of Earth” by extending the person’s lifespan and going to great lengths in trying to achieve technological and economic progress, the final “goal” being that one should enjoy as many comforts as possible for as long as possible. So the original question posed by the non-Muslim presents this mindset, even if it is implicit and the objector himself does not know the background paradigm behind the question.

We have not delved into the deeper matters of how do we Muslims determine the truth of things, and why do we firmly hold that Islam is the only correct religion, since there are other of our writings talking briefly about this. To conclude we say that the above is the (wrong) assumption made by the non-Muslim posing such a question, and we hope to have clarified this issue to some degree, with additional explanations forthcoming as the situation may require. And our success is only through Allah the Exalted.

   


[1] Note that the Qur’an says concerning the coming of Muhammad (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and of the Noble Qur’an that a “light” has come, and describes the Prophet as a light-giving lamp, and that it is actually the coming of Islam that will take people from darkness to light. We are simply mentioning this to highlight that we object to this characterization from a number of angles (both rational and textual), even those that we will not aggressively pursue in this article.

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4 thoughts on “(Draft Article) Objection: “Why do you Muslims want to throw the world back to the Dark Ages?”

  1. Salaam brother I’m having trouble with this statement that was in responce to an article about Salman Rushdie:
    https://abidnyc.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/rushdie-revisited-false-liberalism-the-beauty-of-liberal-islam/

    How should we refute such a statement?

    “It is a real shame that someone who is obviously insightful and such an excellent writer as the author of this site will always be hamstrung by the irrational belief in a ridiculous and untrue religion. I hate to have to be the one to break the news but the Quran was written by men, not Allah. There are many reasons for this but the main one is that there is no Allah, he doesn’t exist.

    But you are free to believe in whatever you like and, although I can’t respect you for suspending all critical faculties, I would never try to prevent you from holding your own personal beliefs. What is harder to stomach, however, is your position regarding Rushdie. First, please try to understand that the Satanic Verses is a novel – not non-fiction, but a novel. A made up work of story and imagination (same as the Quran). Now if people have been hurt or killed because of it’s publication, that is not the author’s responsibility, it is the responsibility of those perpetrating the violence.

    Muslims often seem obsessed with offence and blasphemy – do you not understand the offence and blasphemy that you yourselves are guilty of against Jews for not following Judaism, Christians for not following Christ, or any other religion that’s out there. Should scientologists take to the streets and kill Muslims if one was to draw a cartoon of Ron L. Hubbard?

    If Islam was true then there would not be any need for aversion to books like the Satanic Verses; no useful concept of blasphemy. Imagine if I was to write a book about how 2 + 2 = 6, a book which ridiculed maths – would there be an uprising, would people kill me and each other? No, there would be no need because maths can be demonstrated as being empirically true.

    Because all religions are false they have nothing to lean on as support except aggression, coercion and violence. Rushdie really is a superb author, far superior to the likes of Dahl or Le Carre, his book Shame is among the best novels I have ever read and I’d encourage anyone else out there to do the same.”

    Jazakallah for your time.

    Like

    • Dear Brother,

      I have as of now been unable to get the response of the ‘Aalim in spite of the many months, this is one thing. Also, the person writing the original articles on that site (abidnyc) linked to would have his own thought process of how to answer the above objection; my guess is that he mentioned that he is not writing for a non-Muslim audience, so he sees the above Non-Muslim’s comment as misguided and irrelevant to his discussion, since it seems to be a comment reacting to a religious ruling the site’s author himself disagrees with, and the commenter does not seem to have properly read the article nor the previous piece by the same site’s author. (By the way, I think I would disagree with many things that site’s author says including his views on a number of Islamic rulings, but I am not going to engage in this matter since it is irrelevant.)

      Anyway, I will say a few things and forgive me if I am a little bit rambling, and if I have further thoughts and/or there is any further response from an ‘Aalim or Shaykh I will include that as well in the future:

      1. The discussion about the Existence of Allah is a serious and important matter, but it is not resolved by satire, nor by someone like the commenter claiming that there is no God and implying “this is the end of the matter”.

      2. To properly discuss the matter of the Satanic Verses, one would need to have more-or-less a common basis upon which to evaluate the sources of Islam, both the textual and analytical/mental prime sources – at least a sober respect for how Muslims conceive of and analyze reality and the totality of the textual sources at hand, how we determine correct from incorrect, etc. If one does not accept this, then it is obvious they will descend into sarcasm and parody. The Muslim scholars will readily admit that there are so many inaccurate reports in our books and in the works of our opponents, but there has to be some level of trust in our scholarship before engaging in discussion, if our scholarship is simply dismissed then discussion will inevitably descend into farce, etc.

      3. As hinted to above, the Muslims do field questions about the propriety, authenticity, etc., of our texts and our viewpoints, but if these are done from a starting point that Islam is necessarily false and ridiculous and that all there is to discuss is how we will acquiesce to this (i.e. how will Muslims apostatize), then there is very little chance to engage in discussion.

      4. Satire has an end, its end is to promote harsh negative reactions and to violently shake up the status-quo. It is one thing to say that one needs clarification about certain issues he has read about Islam, and another to purposefully title works and include therein what one knows will bring only negative reactions. It may be seen as ‘Freedom of Speech’ by some, but then there will be consequences and responses; especially considering that the speech was done not as a sober reflection but rather as incitement, one cannot expect a defense of this, or that even the responses will be rational and carefully thought-out (it is a free-for-all in that case, excuse the pun, but one cannot foresee only thought-out counter-responses).

      If Muslims are simply expected to celebrate these sorts of things, one could see an analogy to race: If a KKK/Skinhead leader, writer, and publisher were to be killed by a black man, do not expect a freedom of speech rally in Black Neighborhoods. And if Blacks are pressured into holding such rallies, their leaders have to come out in defense of the KKK, or are castigated for not holding such rallies, it shows really how lowly and despicable the Black communities are considered not only in the larger public opinion, but also in the legal framework of the nation. It is not a perfect analogy since Islam is more important than race and culture, but for us to get some generic idea.

      5. It seems there is a peculiar view in secularism which thinks its views to be natural and universal, this is why the matter of ‘private religious belief’ is brought up again and again by its proponents like the above person. While the truth is first, the term ‘religion’ itself is problematic as far as I see since it tries to constrict a Deen like Islam into handing over most of its intellectual and practical realities to the secular nation-state.

      Thus, I understand that modern secularism holds only itself to be properly true – that is, the world is not divided into ‘public secular’ and ‘private religious’, rather everything is ‘secular’, and ‘religions’ should be phased out, either benevolently, if that fails by legislation and other means if necessary. As far as the Islamic Deen is concerned, we cannot be servile towards this secular worldview.

      6. I personally believe one way to reduce some of the problems of Muslims (not only with respect to this work of satire but more generally) would have been if they could have secured a sort of ‘Dhimmah’ from the polity, not as culturally, legally and intellectually disembodied individuals, but for the Muslim Ummah living in that polity as a whole; then the developing holistic legal framework would have prevented such a work from even being considered. I believe the problems of Muslims might only get worse if they cannot at least obtain this sort of ‘Dhimmah’ when they are in a minority. It may not solve many things, but the current situation is definitely not good at all.

      In the case of Non-Muslim Dhimmis living in a Muslim polity this would also be important, from what I understand it would generally not be acceptable for a Muslim to write satire or profanity against these Non-Muslims just for the heck of it – while in modernity the situation is quite different, since no religious group has any protection in this regard, again because all reality is deemed to be purely secular and religions are viewed at least as nuisances, or otherwise as threats.

      7. It is not true that defending something considered as obviously true will generate only benevolent, peaceful responses. No, in fact the history of secular projects themselves shows that if the adherents of the ideology truly see it as naturally obvious, they will take moral and legal and military efforts to defeat their opponents, exactly because such demands are non-negotiable red lines. It may be a myth perpetuated by certain quarters that obviousness of truth generates only pacifist long-winded philosophical responses, but this is simply not true.

      7. One important thing as well is that strictly speaking, the secularist believes concepts like ‘Religion’ and also ‘Nations’ and even ‘Freedom’ to be useful fictions brought forward by humans in order to perpetuate survival of the species, something which itself is not particularly important for him in the larger context of things. So as a Muslim, I am amused that so much effort would be expended to try to show why we Muslims are flatly wrong, when in his view, all “Human Constructs” have an evolutionary advantage, and even if a religion like Islam is really detrimental to the species, he really has no abstract all-encompassing reason for trying to save humanity in the first place, as opposed to animals in general, or plants, or rocks. So this is one issue that is quite strange as far as I see it.

      Like

    • Salam Alaykum,

      I have asked some of your previous questions to ‘Ulamaa, I will see if there is a response, but if it takes time I will attempt to answer these matters in the best way I can, and if after that the reply comes I will modify my initial response as required.

      Concerning this one issue, it seems there are a lot of objections coming from a number of quarters without a common basis: That is why the atheist might bring up such an objection, but so would the nominal Christian and perhaps other ‘religious’ groups who by definition should believe in the supernatural; I take all of these persons to bring up this objection due to their unfamiliarity with Islamic ontology and law.

      What I know is that the proper method is to concentrate on discussing not only the ‘Supernatural’ as a vague category, but rather the specific Islamic concept of Allah and how that relates to Created Existents and how it has the potentiality to relate to the sending of Prophets and Messengers and to regulations for humans to follow. Unfortunately, most of the interlocutors may not be able to engage in an organized discussion concerning such serious matters (again because they are coming with an ‘intuitive’ approach without a grounded basis), but for those who are willing to engage with us in this manner we can hopefully present to them the Islamic Deen and supplicate that they will see the truth.

      Wa Salam.

      Like

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