By: Prof. Youssef Al Qaradawi
In the very beginning, we are to stress the fact that a nation that once reached the peak of civilization can create a new one, making use of the bright side of the Western scientific advancement, placing it in a frame of human and spiritual values and making it conform with the Divine legislation. In this way, the defects of the contemporary civilization will be eradicated.
The whole world now has been immersed completely in a dream-like wonder of the Western technological advancement that has leveled the space and time for man. It has made life easy for him to the extent that most of his needs are now fulfilled once he presses a small button. What’s more, he may even dispense with buttons in many occasions; upon entering his house, a door opens itself. Such automatic faucets and escalators are few examples of assortment of luxury and comfort the Western civilization has offered man.
Man has also invaded the outer space, explored the moon and brought some of its stones and rocks for laboratory work. This mammoth scientific advancement could never be imagined before. Such achievements are all alluded to in the verse: "And He createth that which ye know not." (An-Nahl: 8)
Man Reaps Wretchedness from this Civilization
Now comes the very important question: Has this scientific advancement that has enabled man to travel to the moon brought him happiness?
Our bitter reality denotes that the answer is in the negative. This pure materialistic Western concept of knowledge granted man just only physical comfort, not the spiritual one. Yes, man succeeded in achieving many state-of-the-art technologies but failed to have peace of mind. This has led to a sort of disparity between man's outer appearance and his inner self. His life, though decorated and colorful, is shallow from within.
It has become a common matter to hear cries of distress, fear, sorrow and despair from people of the so-called developed world. With all the means of comfort they have, they lack spiritual calmness.
No wonder then to see psychiatrists in those countries always having a busy schedule, with throng of clients bringing in their complaints of moral corruption, worry, family disintegration, lack of social stability and solidarity. All this culminated in the high rates of crime to the extent that led to spreading fear and horror among people.
The cause of all these ailments is the absolute freedom granted man under the umbrella of the Western civilization. This has corrupted man’s inner nature and failed to satiate his unfulfilled needs. The more one fulfills his desire, the more he yearns for extra luxuries. The West fails to realize that there is no absolute freedom in the universe. All planets and stars move in certain orbits. Ships and planes go in certain ways that if struck by a tiny change, it may lead to a fatal catastrophe.
Man is not the only victim of this so-called civilization; it has taken its toll on the environment as well. Pollution, nuclear and chemical wastes are in abundance endangering the living species on earth. What adds insult to injury is this genetic engineering, which, instead of addressing man’s woes, has brought about more dangers. Mad cow is just a beginning.
An Arab poet says:
Still in the days to come,
More surprising is the outcome.
These are but the natural results of man's own work, when he gives himself loose rein and thinks of himself as being the sole controller of the universe and forgets that he is no more than a creature and that he has to surrender to the laws of his Lord in order to prosper.
Why Do People Suffer?
People’s woes stem from the fact that they have forgotten their Lord and thus He causes them to forget themselves. Now, they lack the fuel that makes them lead life and look to their future through a dim perspective. They are like a living corpse walking on earth.
Many scholars, philosophers, instructors, men of letters and politicians have warned against the dangerous effect of this materialistic Western civilization on man.
Among those erudite scholars is Alexis Carrel and René Dubois, a noble prize winner.
The well known American philosopher John Dewey says: "A civilization that allows science to destroy the existing values with no capacity to create new ones is a self-destructive civilization."
The contemporary British thinker and renowned historian Arnold Toynbee is quoted as saying that the solution to the problems of the Western society lies in giving the religion high priority for them to gain salvation.
The American intellectual, John Steinbeck, sent to his friend Adlai Stevenson that reads: “The problem of America lies in its luxury and the many things it has. With all those things, it has no spiritual vocation to offer. We are in a dire need to something that will awakens us from our slumber. We have really overcome nature but still unable to overcome our own selves.”
The German poet Brochert expressed the problem of these new generations being brought up under the umbrella of this new civilization and said: “Our generation is shallow from within. We really lack religion, comfort and tranquility. Our love is physical and the gloom of youth fades away in us. Our generation knows no limits, no borders and no protection.”
Among the politicians who showed concern in this regard is the well-known American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, who wrote a book entitled “War or Peace” that included a chapter “Our Spiritual Need”. In this chapter, he addressed many things that America lacks. He wrote: “The problem is not one of material things, for we have the state-of-the-art materials. What we really need is strong sound faith, for without it all our materials do not worth a tinker’s cuss. Such deficiency that arises out of lack of faith cannot be compensated for by politicians, diplomats, scholars or anyone else.”
He further wrote: “Before his demise President Wilson wrote: ‘All in all, our civilization cannot keep on this way unless it regains spirituality.’”
Science Cannot Bring Happiness to Man
People are now complaining of being wretched and miserable. They feel that life is purposeless. With all these technologies and unprecedented scientific discoveries, people are still unable to gain happiness. These forms of sciences fail to remove people’s wretchedness, misfortune and triviality. Great scientists have always reiterated that science cannot act as a savior for mankind.
Sayings of Great Scientists
Among those scientists is Alexis Carrel, the Noble prize winner in science and the author of “Man; That Unknown Being” in which he put Western civilization to criticism based on scientific criteria.
Alexis Carrel wrote: “Modern civilization is on the horns of dilemma, for it does not really suit us. Such a civilization was established on the images of scientific discoveries, people’s lusts, fake ideas, theories and wishes. In spite of the fact that it is we who established it, it is not suitable for us.”
In another place, he wrote: “Man is to be librated from the chains of this universe. It was scientists and astronomers who placed man in such chains. Though being immense, the world of matter is still limited for man.”
Finally, Carrel wrote: “It is now time for man to get out of these shackles; man needs to revive himself. This is not a matter of laying down a program, for a program is no more than a new chain that imprisons our future inside the bars of our mind.”
The well-known American psychologist Dr. Henry Link writes:
“Science does not have remedies for complicated life problems. Science is not the source of happiness, for more scientific advancement means more complicated life. Unless these free sciences are unified and placed in the frame of clear facts of life, they will inevitably lead to decay in minds and total collapse. It is faith only that can play this important role.”
The West Is Far Remote From Religion
In addition to all the above, science, in the West, emerged while being separated from religion or even as an enemy to religion. The church adopted a hostile stance towards science and scientific discoveries. Scientists, in their turn, also perceived religion as a threat, so they kept it at their arm’s length; they would not even mention Allah’s name in their writings.
It was for that reason that all scientific studies looked to universal laws as emerging from nature and not as being Divine. None of those scientists even said to his students that such and such is a divine creation. Instead, they were of the say that all surrounding phenomena are created by nature.
In fact, the entire universe witnesses to the fact that it is Almighty Allah Who has created everything. Almighty Allah says: “Our Lord is He Who gave unto everything its nature, then guided it aright.” (Ta Ha: 50)
The West uses the modern technologies for harmful as well as beneficial things, in good and evil. The World War I and World War II pose as evidence of the great destruction the Western civilization can inflict on the humanity. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are another living evidence.
How can we say, after all this, that the West is still able to grant happiness to the world. How to expect those who are shallow from within to be saviors? How to think that those who are wretched will give happiness to us? Indeed, those who have nothing can give nothing.