In an address to a conference of science and technology attended by ministers from OIC Muslim countries in mid-February, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Islamic countries will remain backward unless they concentrate more on scientific and technological development.
Muslim nations are internally involved in fratricidal conflicts and perceived by the outside world as terrorists with little attention being given on their uplift, he said. Musharraf said the time had come for Islamic nations to take part in collective self-criticism. Once such an assessment is made, it would not be difficult to realise that the entire Islamic world was far behind the developed world, he argued. The Muslim Ummah, he said was presently living in darkness. “Today we are the poorest, the most illiterate, the most backward, the most unhealthy, the most un-enlightened, the most deprived, and the weakest of all the human race,” he told the delegates.
President Musharraf went on to make a comparison of the economic growth in Islamic countries with some developed countries. While the collective Gross National Product of the all Muslim countries stands at $1,200bn that of Germany alone is $2,500bn and that of Japan $5,500bn. He said one of the main reasons for this disparity was that none of the Muslim countries had ever paid any attention to educational and scientific development.
He asked the countries participating in the conference to concentrate on scientific and technological development in order to compete with the developed world. The Pakistani leader suggested the setting up of a multi-billion dollar fund for such a purpose and a need for creating centres of excellence in the field of science and technology. He also called for the creation of scholarships for young scientists to seek knowledge from universities in developed countries. President Musharraf described it as the real jihad, or holy war. He warned that unless this was done, the Islamic world and Muslims would always be perceived as backward, illiterate – those who only indulge in extremism and violence.
Missing the Point
Although the conference was attended by Muslim countries it was without really acknowledging the significance of the bond on which they had gathered – that they were Muslim. Thus the real backward mentality lies in the unchallenged artificial divisions that the colonialists imposed upon the ummah not even more than a century ago.
Therefore Musharraf‘s comparison of the collective Muslim world with individual developed countries is therefore misplaced. Whilst in such conferences the Ummah’s commonality is indirectly acknowledged, in practice the absence of a centralized and unified political framework ensures that the resources of the Muslim world remain unshared, misused and underdeveloped.
Similarly advocating scientific and technological development is one thing but the sharing of that knowledge and the fruits that result has been another. This can be seen in the simple example of Pakistan and its nuclear program which remains confined to the borders of Pakistan rather than being transferred for the good amongst the Muslim world. The nation’s selfish nationalistic interests and politicians personal selfish interests time and time again interfere with the progress of the ummah. But this is the type of collective criticism that Musharraf would rather not undertake. Yet whilst many of the attendees may argue that such propositions are not practical or achievable, one only has to look to history to be reminded of exactly what progress can and indeed was achieved when the Muslim world was a single indivisible entity.
The truth of the matter is that scientific and technological development is all very well but it is not the fundamental building block that progress is built upon. For what is far more important is to address the thoughts a nation carries i.e. the process of thinking the majority of its individuals adopt in life affairs by which they make judgments and decisions. Although the Muslim world professes Islam, the Islamic Aqeedah today is not referred to as a comprehensive basis for a set of thoughts which they contrive to use in life. The West is productive (albeit only in the material sense) because it makes progress in a specific way i.e. according to the man made capitalistic thoughts. In contrast the Islamic Aqeedah are the true thoughts as they originate from the Creator and therefore they are the enlightened thoughts from which if used frequently and successfully, lead to the correct progress, i.e. a sound solution which is compatible with man’s innate nature .
Therefore it is the establishment of the enlightened thought that should be pursued and concentrated upon above all else. This is because with regard to material wealth, scientific discoveries, industrial inventions and the like, all of these are of much lower importance than thoughts. In fact, to gain such matters depends on the thoughts, and preservation of these matters depends on the thoughts as well. After all it was only when the West agreed to separate religion from state and became convinced of capitalism as a way of thinking (referred to in the West as the period of enlightenment), that the Industrial Revolution steamed ahead. Even though they have decayed in all moral, humanitarian and spiritual dimensions, which highlights the dangers of adopting man inspired thoughts.
Similarly when the Arabs and thereafter large numbers of humanity embraced the Islamic aqeedah, the world witnessed the progress that resulted and no civilisation then and since has failed to be impacted by the achievements, scientific discoveries and industrial inventions borne from people and nations adhering to Islam as a way of thinking. Unlike today, where Muslims abandoned Islam as a comprehensive idea, and instead mimicked and experimented with other ideas like socialism / communism and capitalism.
Thus even when the material wealth of the ummah was destroyed, it would have been possible for it to be restored quickly as long as the ummah preserved Islam as an ideology. Instead when Islam was abandoned as a complete set of thoughts, this wealth soon shrunk and the ummah fell down into poverty. If the Muslims had not lost its way of thinking, most of the scientific achievements which were once made could have been regained. But since it lost its specific way of thinking, it regressed and lost its discoveries and inventions. Therefore, it is necessary to take care of the thoughts first.
Musharraf has failed to understand that sadly it is natural for this generation to be seen in poverty, despite the abundance of material resources in its lands. Likewise, it is natural to have no scientific discoveries and industrial inventions even though Muslims study the theories of these discoveries and inventions and are aware of them. This is because it is impossible to rush to gain them unless it has the Islamic thoughts and it is creative in using these thoughts in life. Therefore, the Muslims must establish for themselves thoughts based only on the Islamic Aqeedah and to abandon any and all ideas from socialism or capitalism. Only then will they be able to proceed, based on that, to acquire material wealth, make scientific discoveries, and industrial inventions. Unless they do this, they will not proceed a single step; rather they will continue to go around in a vicious circle, exhausting their mental and physical efforts, only to end up exactly where they began – at a similar conference next year.