The Western World and Its Challenges to Islam

One must always remember that in the present situation any form of criticism of the modern world based upon metaphysical and religious principles is a form of charity and in accordance with the most central virtues of Islam. Also, one should never forget that the Prophet of Islam---upon whom be peace---not only possessed adab in its most perfect form, but also asserted the truth in the most frank and straightforward manner. There are moments of his life when he was extremely categorical, and he never sacrificed the truth for the sake of adab. In fact adab has always been the complement to the preception and assertion of the truth in every situation and circumstances. Once an eminent spiritual authority from North Africa said, ‘Do you know what adab is? It is to sharpen your sword that when you have to cut a limb it does not hurt.

It is this type of attitude that is needed by Muslims in their discussion of the West and its challenges to Islam. The truth not only has a right to our lives and our beings; it also has the prerogative of asking us to make sense to others and to express and expound it whenever and wherever possible. Today we need to be critical even to the degree of stringency, precisely because such an attitude is so rare and so much in demand.

What is lacking in the Islamic world today is a thorough examination and careful criticism of all that is happening in the modern world. Without such criticism nothing serious can ever be done in the business of confronting the West. All statements of modernized Muslims which begin with the assertion, ‘The way to harmonize Islam...’ and concluded with whatever follows the ‘and’, are bound to end in failure unless what follows is another divinely revealed and inspired world view.

Attempts to harmonize Islam and Western socialism or Marxism or existentialism or evolution or anything else of the kind are doomed from the start simply because they begin without exposing their system or "ism" in question to a thorough criticism in the light of Islamic criteria, and also because they consider Islam as a partial view of things to be complemented by some form of modern ideology rather than a complete system and perspective in itself whose very totality excludes the possibility of its becoming a mere adjective to modify some other noun which is taken almost unconsciously as central in place of Islam.

The rapid change in fashions of the day which make Islamic socialism popular one day and liberalism or some other Western `ism' the next is itself proof of the absurdity and shallowness of such an approach. He who understands the structure of Islam in its totality knows that Islam can never allow itself to be reduced to the status of a mere modifier, or contigency, vis-a-vis a system of thought which remains independent of it. The defensive and apologetic attitude adopted by so many modernized Muslims towards various fashionable modes of thought that issue from the West almost with the rapidity of seasonal changes is closely allied to their lack of a critical sense and a discharging spirit.

Usually, obvious shortcomings and what is easy to criticize are criticized, but few have the courage to stand up and criticize the basic fallacies of our times. It is easy to point out that the life of students in traditional madrasahs is not hygienic, but it is much more difficult to take a firm stand and assert the fact that much of what is taught in the modern educational institutions is far more deadly for the soul of the students than the physically unhealthy surroundings and some of the old madrasah buildings. There are too few people in the Islamic world today who can confront the West, criticize, and, with the sword of the intellect and the spirit, answer at its very foundations the challenge with which the West confronts Islam. Such is the case today; but it does not have to be so. There is no logical reason why a new intellectual elite could not develop in the Islamic world with the capacity to provide an objective criticism of the modern world from the point of view of the external verities contained within the message of the Islamic revelation.


There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all of the things you have that money can't buy.....or reflect back upon what you may have once had and took for granted. We often don't see the value and richness of something we have until we lose it.

(Source: IOS Newsletter, January 1999)