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”. 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.
 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.