The Secular Liberal West presents itself to the world as firm practitioners of sound rational thinking while portraying the adherents of Islam as fanatical followers of meaningless, superstitious dogma. By doing so, they seek to bring world public opinion to their side, to justify their interventionist wars in the Muslim world, and their numerous occupations of Muslim lands. The West, they claim, is eminently reasonable, willing to engage in open discussion with anyone, but discussion with Muslims is not possible because of the alleged irrationality of their demands; so war is the only remaining option.
The Western view of Islam is false; Islam is undoubtedly built on sound rational thinking. It is, in fact, the West’s rational credentials that need to be questioned. The present Western civilisation is built intellectually on a compromise solution hastily contrived during a period of severe turmoil in European history. As part of this compromise, the West rejected the Christian foundation of its society and state, and adopted a deeply negative view of Christianity. This view predisposes it to view all religion, including Islam, as intellectually baseless and incapable of constituting the foundation of rational thought and action. The fault here is not of religion but of the West’s tortured compromises.
For a thousand years, the West had lived according to Christianity. Although they now ungratefully consider these their ‘dark ages’, this had been a time of stability, growth and ascendancy in Western life. Christianity brought them high values and principles, concepts of honour and dignity, and ethical, humanitarian and spiritual elevation. It is true that Christian nations remained materially backward in comparison to the Islamic Khilafah which dominated the world as its sole superpower for most of this time, or perhaps to some extent the Roman Empire that preceded it. Nevertheless, the Khilafah State’s open trade policy, being neither imperialist nor exploitative, enabled Europe’s merchants to gain considerable benefits raising Europe’s standard of living, making them familiar even with far eastern commodities and manufactures due to the highly efficient domestic market within the Islamic State. Furthermore there was no obstacle to technology transfer, other than for military use; nor had Islam enforced any form of copyrighting or patenting to prevent intellectual dissemination of the fruits of the Islamic civilisation within the Western world.
Christianity faced its greatest challenge not from Islam but from within when atheistic European thinkers took advantage of the severe conflict in European governance occurring from the violent rebellion of northern European Protestantism against the Roman Catholic Church. Europe was torn apart by wars, most notably the thirty-year war, which was only brought to a close by the Peace of Westphalia, a desperate pragmatic acceptance of the prevailing status quo of different European states each choosing to adopt their own Christian sect. Europe’s governments had been weakened not only by foreign aggression but also by domestic uprisings due to the multiplication of sects within each country. Christianity had never had to face before the problem of numerous diverse sects within the same geographical region on this scale and magnitude.
Atheists had long existed as a cancer within European society, but it was at this time of considerable internal weakness that atheism saw its great opportunity and spread malignantly across the European continent and beyond. Retrieving philosophies from the West’s pagan past, from Rome and Greece, the atheists presented the classic materialistic view, claiming the world to be eternal and everlasting, independent and self-preserving, thus rejecting the need for creation or Creator. Upon this materialist basis, they set about building a political doctrine that challenged the entire framework of Europe Christian rule. In the absence of the Creator, man is lord of himself, free and equal to all men: therefore, established hierarchies of clergy and nobility must be demolished and society must be reconstituted upon the principles of freedom and democracy. It was a powerful agenda that appealed to the religious ideals of equality and justice while targeting the pervasive corruption and oppression of the nobility and the clergy who had long enjoyed an entrenched hegemony over European society.
Christian thinkers had to move urgently to address Christianity’s sectarian divisions and at the same time counter the materialistic thinking introduced by the atheists while accepting many of their criticisms regarding clergy and nobility. These Christians’ solution was a hasty compromise between their religion and the new politics of freedom and democracy. Man is created by God, but God has endowed man with the intellectual ability to rationally discover his own system in this world, so that he is not dependent on revelation for this. As a first step, the compromisers attempted to adopt a moderate ‘Christian’ toleration instead of absolute freedom, and a ‘mixed’ government system instead of democracy. But ultimately, the materialist threat proved too overwhelming, and the West had to give way to the ideas of freedom and democracy in full – the Christian religion came to be combined with the political doctrine of the materialists.
Christianity’s central role in Europe’s affairs was effectively at an end. Although the atheistic materialist creed had also been firmly rejected, the cost of doing so was the separation of religion from life. Church and clergy would survive but, in the name of freedom, restricted to a private, voluntary role in believers’ personal lives. Meanwhile, aristocratic privilege was sacrificed to democratic rule and monarchies throughout Europe gave way to republican states.
From false rationalism to false empiricism
The intellectual weakness of the Christian creed in the face of materialist propaganda has led the West to think that all religion is intellectually unsound, and that it is not possible to build a rational worldview on religious doctrine. But this conclusion overlooks the errors of Christians in the presentation of their creed. Although Christianity had attempted to base its creed on the intellectual method, there was a basic deficiency in their approach, and it was this that the atheists were then able to exploit in presenting their materialist agenda.
Christian thinkers had repeatedly set out intellectual proofs of the Creator’s existence in accordance with what is today known as ‘rationalism’ but their understanding of the rational method was limited to the Greek mathematical method of deductive logic. This deductive methodology is only one particular style of rational thinking, useful in developing working scientific hypothesis, or deriving new results from previously accepted hypotheses. But deductive logic is incapable of delivering conclusive intellectual conviction. Christians were apparently attracted to the perceived rigour and formality of the deductive method, without realising the limitations of its application.
The deductive method depends upon postulating general and absolute premises, which are taken as assumptions in a logical derivation that, sometimes after numerous steps, ends in specific solutions that can be physically verified, for example by scientific experiment. Repeated independent verification of derived results increases the credibility of the initial assumptions. The actual utility of this method, as far as being a form of proof, is the validation of these initial assumptions, not the deduced results. Furthermore, initial assumptions can never be proven with complete certainty using this approach. This is because the deduced results are only partial implications of these assumptions: the results could be found correct while the assumptions are still at fault. This is why it is said, regarding scientific theories, where this method actually applies, that a theory can be definitively proven false but it cannot be definitively proven true. Stating assumptions in general and absolute form means that its results will be countless and, since it is impossible to verify all these results, then it is impossible to verify the assumptions definitively. Thus they remain hypotheses, or theories, or may even be called ‘laws’ but only according to the measure of confidence in them without ever reaching the level of definitive certainty.
Using the method of deductive logic, Christians had devised a number of ‘proofs’ for the existence of the Creator as well as other creedal matters. But numerous discovered errors in these so-called proofs had already led a faction of the Christian clergy to consider religion incapable of being proved by the mind. The final blow came when the atheist thinkers presented their materialist creed and political doctrine using the same method of deductive logic. Christians were stunned by the force of their ‘proofs’, unable to find the errors at first, and then unable to convincingly demonstrate these errors to European society in general.
It was at this time that some Christian thinkers rushed to provide an immediate remedy for this situation by bringing forward the thinking of earlier clerics who had held that religion could not be proved by the mind. They rejected ‘rationalism’ in its entirety as an intellectual method and proposed in its place what became known as ’empiricism’, according to which the mind is restricted to addressing the present sensed and observed reality and is not considered capable of drawing conclusions about what is beyond the senses. Using this ’empiricist’ approach, they dissected materialist thinking into two parts: any discussion of the materialist creed was intellectually invalid as it impinged upon discussion of what is beyond the senses, i.e. the discussion of whether or not the Creator exists, while discussion of the materialist political doctrine of freedom and democracy fell within permitted intellectual discourse because it pertained to the life of this world alone.
By limiting the use of the intellect to the subject of political doctrine only, sincere Christians thought that they were saving the Christian creed, which would always lie outside of valid intellectual consideration. But, though they had given some protection to the Christian creed, the painful cost of this was that they had divorced it from use in life’s affairs, as life’s matters would now be determined by the intellect and not by revelation. They had rejected the materialist creed of the atheists but opened the way to adopting the political doctrine of freedom and democracy emanating from that creed. It is this strange compromise of the separation of religion from life that has became the foundation of Western Civilisation in the past three centuries.
Religion is the only intellectually valid truth
Neither the rationalist methodology, as it was understood in Europe, nor the empiricist methodology is correct. Christians were wrong in the first place to use deductive logic to ‘prove’ the existence of the Creator. Deductive logic cannot prove such matters definitively. However, empiricism is also not correct as a description of our general thinking method as it is an everyday occurrence that we derive conclusions about unseen matters based on what we see directly; the empirical method is better considered a particular type of thinking that applies in the realm of scientific theory and experiment.
Christians should have learnt from the approach that Islam adopts in using general rational thinking to reach the undeniable conclusion that the Creator exists. The human intellect is quite capable of moving rationally in a conclusive manner from a specific sensed reality to a specific intellectual conclusion, even if this conclusion pertains to what is beyond sensed reality. This requires neither deduction from, nor induction towards, abstract generalisations because one is moving from a specific matter to a specific matter without employing generalisations. For example, not finding the book that I know for sure that I left on the desk in my room means definitively that someone came and took it. A specific sensed reality leads me to a specific intellectual conclusion beyond sensed reality with complete certainty without the intervention of deduction or induction or generalisations or abstractions.
The existence of the Creator is a specific matter that follows naturally and inevitably from consideration of specific physical evidence before us in the world in which we live. There is no need to postulate unprovable generalisations and absolutes. It is possible to conclude with intellectual certainty that a rock, a tree, a cloud, a bird, a planet, a star, or man himself each enjoy only a defined limited nature. As such, it is not possible that they existed always like this or that they will always do so; therefore, it can be said without doubt that they are created beings. The existence of even one created being proves with definitive intellectual certainty the existence of the Creator. The Qur’an is full of references to sensed reality and constantly provokes man to apply his intellect to this in order to reach the undeniable conclusion that this is all creation.
Christians were also wrong in accepting compromise as an intellectual method. Compromise is valid only for resolving legitimate competing interests. The idea that the world is everlasting and eternal is an intellectual solution that is opposed completely to the idea that the world is creation and brought into existence by the Almighty. Only one of these two can be correct; it is not possible to compromise between them, or the ideas emanating from them. In a materialistic world, man is held master of his own affairs. In the world described by religion, our Lord and Master is the Creator of the universe. It cannot be correct to take the creed of one solution but the implications of the other.
It is the atheistic materialistic creed that results in freedom and democracy. If man is master of his own affairs in life, then he should be given freedom to live his life as he pleases, and he should be given democracy so that men can themselves choose the laws according to which they would accept to live together in society. There are many practical problems with the ideas of freedom and democracy, which contradict the nature of man and the nature of society. The brutal reality of the pursuit of these ideas is that man ends up enslaved to others. The slogans of freedom and democracy become vehicles of exploitation and oppression. The ugly oppressiveness of Capitalism and Imperialism is the real face of the enchanting ideals of freedom and democracy.
Man is not capable of ordering his life himself. All manufactured devices, no matter how complex, have a specific and fixed nature and are designed to function and operate according to particular systems devised by their manufacturers. Although men, and women, vary greatly in individuality from one to another, they all own, in essence, a fixed and unchanging nature with permanent needs and desires. A single perfectly-designed system is needed to ensure man’s tranquillity and satisfaction. This system must come from the Creator of man, not from man himself. Leaving the design of any system to one who is ignorant and incapable will only lead, at best to complete chaos and disaster; at worst it results in a calculated exploitation and oppression, as imperialist capitalism has proven to be. Only true religion can provide the best ordering of man and society, ensuring opportunity and justice for all.
It is in fact religion alone that is the only intellectually valid truth. The West was unable to understand this, not because religion was at fault, but because of the faulty thinking method that they adopted. First they followed rationalism but limited this to use of the method of deductive logic, the language of mathematics and geometry, which is unable to prove any reality conclusively. Then they followed empiricism which was in effect the scientific empirical method used for drawing conclusions about immediate sensed reality only. Both methods were naturally unable to conclusively address that which is beyond our immediate senses, even though it is an everyday commonplace that we make numerous small and large sound decisions about unseen matters based on what we sense directly. If the correct thinking method is adopted then it will become clearly evident to all that religion alone is intellectually valid and that the materialist doctrine and the compromise solution are intellectually at fault.
The West must reject the materialist disease at the heart of their civilisation
The materialists, also unsatisfied with the West’s compromise solution, went on to develop their ideas more fully in later generations into the ideology of socialism/communism, which was implemented in the Soviet Union, China and a number of other states. This ideology, which completely denied the Creator, and viewed this present world as eternal and everlasting, was responsible for untold suffering, misery and destruction in these Communist lands. They retained the ideas of freedom and democracy differing only in giving these a collectivist interpretation which accorded more fittingly with their Stoical submission to the immutable laws of dialectic materialism, as opposed to the Epicurean-inspired free-will individualism of the West. It was inevitable that such an ideology, so markedly contradictory of human nature, would collapse quickly, doing so in less than a century, its brief spark of survival depending heavily on the harsh totalitarian rule of terror and oppression.
In contrast to communism, Western civilisation has lasted now about three centuries. By retaining some aspect of religion in their civilisation, the West saved themselves from the miserable fate of the Communists, though the present Western civilisation also severely contradicts human nature. Religion honours man as an individual, while also viewing him as a valued member of society with important duties and responsibilities towards his fellow man, as one whose entire life in this world constitutes worship of his Creator. The West’s compromise with early materialist political doctrine has led them to devalue man’s ethical, humanitarian and spiritual needs, leaving only a stark materialistic individualism that seeks constant worldly pleasure and sensual hedonism; such a value system inevitably results in man’s exploitation and oppression of his fellow man and, at the global level, colonialist loot and plunder on a scale unmatched in mankind’s history.
It is imperative that the West reject the alien materialist political doctrine of freedom and democracy that has come to be deeply embedded within its civilisation. It was the West that took on the challenge of the atheistic Communist evil and defeated it resoundingly. The West now needs to eliminate the remaining elements of that atheism within its own civilisation and return to its original religious roots. If weaknesses and deficiencies were discovered in the implementation of Christianity three centuries ago, then the West must return to those issues and resume efforts to solve these in the light of divine revelation. Western people had at that time, and have increasingly now, access to a wealth of divine revelation in the books revealed by the Creator. Our Lord and Master has not only created us but is also observing, protecting and guiding us every day of our lives as the Christians well know.
We hope that the Christians can rid themselves of the disease of materialism. We Muslims offer them also the divine texts of Islam, which they will find confirm what has been revealed to them previously. Furthermore, we are working hard as Muslims to correct our own mistakes and purify ourselves on our own religion, in order to re-establish our civilisation on the righteous Islamic Khilafah based purely on Islam alone, which will restore to all mankind the true example for them to follow, and which will fully expose before the entire world the evil of materialist disbelief thus eliminating it from the face of this Earth.
Written for The Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by
Ibn Nusrah, Pakistan