Modern Man has made technological progress. This is undeniable and equally unremarkable. History shows that other civilisations also made unprecedented advances when measured against the standards of their time. They all went through the cycle of rise, decline and destruction. If what they achieved was truly progress and greatness why, then, did they disappear into nothingness? These were not random events, since history follows a pattern that continuously repeats itself. The task of humankind is to study the cycles of history in order to avoid getting caught in the snares that earlier nations became trapped in. The fact that they are able to keep alive the lessons of the past and learn from their mistakes is what gives human beings superiority over Angels. We are able to use this capacity to better our present situation and leave signposts for the future. Despite this, as a species we have developed collective amnesia with regards to learning lessons from history.
History is also the disastrous lesson which has never been able to guide tyrants and despots. Every dictator ignores the lesson of history and portrays himself as the maker of history. He does not seek guidance from events of the past. If he did, he would notice that time and again the worship of God is cast aside in favour of devotion to idols and heroes. This is the first step towards destruction. How many conquerors fell into the same trap as those before them? The philosophers of Greece and the democracy of Athens were wiped from existence. Even Cicero and Plutarch could not save the gods of Rome. History has failed in restraining the negative aspects of Man that ultimately lead to his downfall. Yet it is full of interest and contains within it the social, economic and religious values of ancient and medieval times. History is never completely faithful to actual events as it is told through the mouths of critics and opinion makers who come later. But those who will heed the lessons of history are rare to find. Fighting in the thick of the battle and talking about the battle from a comfortable chair in a lecture hall are two different things.
Fossils allow us to establish the chronology of human life and history keeps alive the past achievements of individuals and nations like a blazing star, visible from a distance through the pitch darkness of the past. The distance between the Earth and space seems insignificant, perhaps, because of the numerous stars that shine in the night. Sometimes the recall of a single word or a phrase brings back to life the forgotten lessons of the past. The sense of distance diminishes like each passing milestone. But history is no longer the story of facts. We are keen to give our opinions and totally ignore the lessons of history. The madness of today seems like an embodiment of the mistakes of the past. Before their final demise, few display signs of remorse or regret. Decline is the philosophy that underpins existence. Where are the Kings and Emperors of the past? To many intellectuals, both Hussain and Yazid were victims. There are even some critics of the Holy Prophets who see these blazing Suns of the human Galaxy as dictators who lusted after power!
Is this the best their highly developed intelligence can come up with? How can such historians express opinions on history, when humanity has not yet been able to figure out the reasons for the study of history? Is it to have wonderful exhibitions of ancient artefacts in museums? Taking lessons from history is seen as a sign of being old fashioned. Buddha did not mention the name of God out of fear that the name he used would only end up as an extra stone idol in the temple of Brahman. But Ashok , who should have learnt the lesson of history, made Buddha into a stone instead. In places of learning, the teachings of Buddha were replaced with the tradition of rehearsing in detail the works of the enslaved makers of Buddha’s statues.
History demonstrates that not a single nation perished under the cloud of poverty. Is it not strange that past nations suffered from unforeseen tragedies only when they were at the height of their progress, glory and quality of life? History has sorted out the facts. But history does not record the fact that a particular nation was destroyed because of their excesses and rebellion against God and human nature. No historian has explained that the earlier and later nations of Aad were destroyed because of their inhumane and corrupt practices. Even if this had been written down the civilised nations of today would not have regarded it as worthy of any attention. Have they not given legal protection to explicitly immoral practices? The superficial rationalists have paved the way for the perversion of the natural instincts of Man.
Future historians will record that modern Man did not steer clear from the gross and foolish practices in history and failed to discover the foundations of a better society. History shows that the human race has never agreed with each other. It has never united, and harmony of values has never occurred. The sons and daughters of Adam and Eve did not use reason. They divided the earth and parcelled out the sky. They shared out bodies, and distributed blood. They fought wars for power and control. They made claims of sovereignty over time and space. With speed they tried to rush towards their ultimate outcome, and this outcome is no different from that of previous nations.
I belong to this age and can say without hesitation that history shows that sooner or later humanity will find itself on the verge of annihilation, in proportion to Noah’s flood or the final Day of Judgment. The whole of history is a testament that all the visible evidence is pointing in this direction. This is not a prophecy. It is a historical fact and only a few moments of time remain between now and the final outcome. This is also not despair. It is the same reality that turns away from the concept of miracles. Is it not mythical make-believe to imagine that this time history will not repeat itself? What miracle are you waiting for and whom do you expect this miracle from? Those who seek guidance from Maths, Physics and Geometry cannot accept reality. Think of how many scientific facts have become old fictions, and how many modern scientific concepts have become the subject of speculation, and the number of ‘settled’ scientific conclusions that have had to be re-evaluated.
History is also a science which has unceasingly repeated its conclusions in time and space, and continues to do so. There is no change in its practice. The same events always lead to the same outcomes. Do you not observe in history the law that if all the conditions and relationships stay the same as they were, then the outcome will be exactly the same as it was before? Is it not clear who is backward and against progress? If the use of reason is the way forward, then the reptilian instinct prefers to go backwards in time when humans were indistinguishable from animals. But is the conduct of backwardness displayed through things or values? Travelling to and from work by car, bus or train cannot be regarded as opposing development. Is reverting to ancient values what is meant by ‘regressive’? Nobody these days will travel a hundred miles on a donkey instead of a bus. So in the realm of physical facts and objects nobody is against advancement. Maybe the revival of old prejudices is backwardness. Some return to the concept of God, and others turn back to the norms of Sparta and Lesbos (Greek city states). The regression of the East to the time of the Prophet is not too distant in time. But the relapse of the West is to the lifestyles of Aad and Thamud, which is even more backward!
The Primates have clearly begun to take a step towards curiosity and thought. But we, the humans of the present age, want to go back to the age of Zeus . The men want to become Satyrs , Greek Deities of the mountains and woods who spent their time drinking, dancing and partaking in sexual pleasures, and the females aspire to become Nymphs , paragons of feminine beauty. It is astonishing that appliances are the mark of progress, machines dependant on a flick of your finger before they can bring themselves into motion! If instruments alone are progress then there is much truth in what Abraham said. The biggest idol must be the one which annihilates the smaller ones.
What is the ultimate goal that Man can single out in the name of freedom? What does he want? The consequences of some of these personal freedoms are apparent in several societies. But other societies have restrained themselves from these freedoms, perhaps because they are ‘backward’. When you think about it, if it were not for this old fashioned self-control then the ultimate notion of freedom to indulge in reptilian instincts would be the death knell of mankind. The Pagan gods Laat, Habal and Manaat are still present today. Circling the Kaaba while naked is Jahiliyya (ignorance). But how can cultural nudity and striptease be thought of as universal virtues? Today we do not find the statue of Habal , but the Statue of Liberty. We seek ‘Liberation’ from our real nature and our creator. The historical form may have changed but the values are the same.
However, reality does not change. The constellation of stars appears the same as they did then, even though our instruments of observation have changed. People ridiculed the message of the Prophets by creating stereotypes. This is true today and many such clichés have become part of modern discourse. They are part of satirical speech. It is said that they break the power of dogma. Thus you are outdated, uncivilised and backward, not fit to be part of the modern age. You are a follower of a pointless religion. You are the victim of low intellectual capacity and are not yet fully refined. Your outward hijab is in reality veiling your intellect. If you were to leave your top button undone then you would feel a fresh breeze. If your eyes are not made up and the locks of your hair are not visible then you will be laughed at. Your language should show your status. Crows and imitations should always follow the lead of the swan. Your speech is balanced and courteous, but such a speech does not possess international prestige. Real conversation should be peppered with broken phrases of foreign tongues and monkey-like gestures. This is a sign of progress and civilisation!
You can be a ‘nice’ person, but not a modern one. The clear sparkling waters of a river end up mingling with the rough, murky and hideous waters of the sea. Modernity is like an ocean. Wave after wave, from its deep, dark depths up to its surface, are a perpetual spread of darkness. Not even the clouds of kindness and generosity with their crystal pure, distilled and life-giving rain can purify its waters. For thousands of years the efforts of the Prophets could not turn the direction of the decaying and decomposing mentality of Man. The standard of fairness of modern Man is such that even the benchmark of justice of primates such as Capuchin Monkeys is far superior to that of Bush and Blair.
(Translated from Muqaddama-tul-Quran (pp.11-16)
An English Edition of Muqaddama-tul-Quran by Prof.Ahmad Rafique Akhtar