What went wrong

One of the books I started reading but never finished was "What Went Wrong", in which Bernard Lewis tried to explain the reasons behind the retreat of the Arabi-Islamic civilisation and the advance of the Western civilisation. Despite being extremely orientalist in his presentation and thesis, the book should be read by us as it is trying to explain the demise of our civilisation.
I was discussing a similar issue with Fanen, we came to the conclusion that as a cultural unit (Arab/Islamic) we are not producing any form of cultural activities, or to be fair, our cultural product whether in the arts or the sciences is so little that it is marginal compared to the size of the population. If we continue to disregard the importance of cultural outputs, then the distinctive traits of this cultural unit (I use this term instead of a nation) will vanish. A culture that does not continuously reproduce and recreate itself is likely to be overtaken by other cultures.

What went wrong, and what is going wrong now, is that we stopped being an active civilisation, and at this rate we are going to stop being a civilisation. At the height of the Islamic empire, knowledge is what kept us going, culture, arts, architecture, music etc... in the 14th century Muslims were inventing musical instruments, in the twentieth, we are banning them. In the 14th century Muslims produced architectural outputs that outlived all other civilisations remaining intact. Now, with few exceptions, our previous architectural products are forgotten.
Today we are reproducing the cultural products which will reproduce the cultural outputs of the beginning of the twentieth century. The central theme of all cultural products is the religion, and we are hardly thinking or producing in any other domain. If you walk in the streets of Palestine, Jordan, Syria etc... you will find, for example, that the majority of the books being displayed and sold are religious books. You will also find that there is a growing market for the "Islamic Song". This is what we are producing, but this will eventually produce a whole society which will be merely concerned with these issues only. We will be trapped in a situation of lack of conciousness about anything else but religion, can you imagine a whole society of monks?

As Adel Imam once said "people have stepped on the moon while we are debating with which leg to step into the toilet."


Anonymous said...

i think what is wrong is people like you, who just want to "Criticize ", and they usually do nothing more, start by your sick personality, and then you will find out why you-arabs- are not producing any culture.

Ned said...

I think who ever you are, or wherever you come from are not even willing to look at what i said or say, you have a wall placed infront of your mind.

Anonymous said...

...like you sometimes, Ned ... and everybody else ...

Sheema said...

Right on, Ned - it's what Ziauddin Sardar succinctly described as "ossification" in his brilliant 'Introducing Islam' book.

I couldn't agree more, and have felt this way for a long, long time. We Muslims in Malaysia are reproducing exactly the same tragedy.