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The Influences of Western Civilization

The dominance of modern Western civilization has created three kinds of experiences in the world. The first experience is that the Western civilization and its flag-bearer, America, arrived and over the span of two hundred years, killed eighty to a hundred million Red Indians, exterminated their race, and changed the condition of the remaining Red Indians in a way that neither their religion nor their civilization, nor their language survived.

Meaning the flag-bearers of the Western civilization wiped out the majority of the Red Indians and pushed the culture of the remaining people to the brink of extinction, ultimately erasing their civilization. America is not the only example of this series. When the bearers of Western civilization entered Australia, Aboriginals lived there and the whole continent of Australia was their property. Here too, the bearers of Western civilization committed genocide and in one and a half centuries, killed 45 million Aboriginals. Efforts were made to eradicate the culture and heritage of the remaining Aboriginals, but the Aboriginals proved to be somewhat resilient. Some parts of their civilization and culture survived. A few years ago, the white Australians apologized for their historical role and declared Tasmania as the state of Aboriginals and telling them that they can live according to their religion and culture in this state.

Some people consider modern Western civilization and Christianity synonymous but this is not the case. Modern Western civilization is a revolt against Christianity and this civilization has brought Christianity in Europe to a point where there seems no future of Christianity in Europe. Its estimate can be made from the fact that many people of Western Europe do not believe in God and a signification population does not adhere to any religion. From this perspective, the question is what is the relation of Christianity with Europe? The answer to this question is that Christianity is the past of Europe. It is the “history” of Europe. It is a “civilization” devoid of the spirit of Europe. In terms of the present era, Europe remembers its Christian identity on two occasions. One is when it has to celebrate the festival of Christmas and the second is when it has some kind of confrontation with Islam and Muslims.

Muslims ruled India for a thousand years. In this long period, Hindus accepted deep influences of Islam and Islamic civilization but Hinduism remained Hinduism and Hindus remained Hindus in this long span of time but modern Western civilization secularized India in just two hundred years. Undoubtedly, Hinduism is still the major religion in India but for a large number of Hindus, its importance is either historical or mythical. And a definition of ‘Myth’ in the modern age has been given by the greatest expert of Hinduism in contemporary times, Ananda Coomaraswamy, that a Myth is a concept whose reality is lost. Its meaning is that Hinduism exists but its reality is lost. Its meaning is that neither Hindu ontology survived nor its concept of knowledge is alive nor Hindus’ practice of its ethics remained. Hindu social practices had survived but modern Western civilization is also destroying it rapidly. The result is that only nominal Hindus are left who celebrate Holi and Diwali just like Christians celebrate Christmas. Hindus worship Ram and consider Ram’s wife Sita like their mother but neither the life and conduct of Ram affects Hindus nor the life and conduct of Sita affects Hindu women. Nowadays Hindus strongly remember Hinduism when they have some issue with Islam and Muslims. Hatred for Islam, Muslims, and Pakistan makes Hindus feel they also have a “Dharma” or religion, “history”, and “civilization”.

A new experiment has taken place in Muslim countries and societies in relation to Western civilization. Islam is an eternal reality that no worldly power can destroy from the face of the Earth.  Thus, Western civilization could not succeed in attracting Islam, neither now nor in the future. In terms of Islam, Muslims also have a permanent existence on Earth. Western civilization and its flag-bearers killed millions of Muslims but they could not eradicate Muslims, nor can they ever do so. In this context, the question is what is the nature of the experience created by Western civilization in the Muslim world?

If answered in one sentence, it would be that Western civilization has split the individual and collective character of the Muslim world into two. Ghalib has stated this reality in the following manner:

ایماں مجھے روکے ہے تو کھینچے ہے مجھے کفر
کعبہ مرے پیچھے ہے کلیسا مرے آگے

(Faith stops me, while disbelief pulls me

Ka’aba is behind me, Church is in front of me)


It means that before the intervention of Western civilization, Islamic civilization was a unity. This means that the life of the Muslims was subject to only one principle. But Western civilization made this life subject to two principles instead of one. In the Islamic concept of life, there was unity between religion and the world. Because the world was subordinate to religion (Deen). But modern Western civilization introduced the concept of the duality of religion and the world in Muslim societies. Undoubtedly, the concept of the world was not a creation of Western civilization. The concept of the world has always existed but in traditional societies, worldliness meant deviation from religion. The question is what new did Western civilization do in this regard? The answer is that Western civilization established the world as a reality parallel to religion. Thus in this sphere, the relationship between religion and the world was separated. Now religion had its own principles and the world had its own disciplines.

Under this concept, religion was considered a personal matter of people and the government and state had no relation left with religion nor religion had any link left with the state and government. To make this experience of split personality or duality common in every sphere of life, Western civilization posed its ontology against the ontology of Muslims. It promoted its epistemology against the epistemology of Muslims. This change has also impacted literature. Our traditional literature talked in terms of Haqeeqat (reality) and Majaz (Appearance). In the sphere of this concept, every reality had an appearance and every appearance had a reality and great literature was that which was capable of expressing both Haqeeqat (reality) and (Majaz) appearance simultaneously. But under the influence of Western civilization, ‘appearance’ itself became ‘reality’. In its next stage, the concept of ‘reality’ got limited further. It started being said that by ‘reality’ is meant psychological or emotional reality. The Progressive Movement event went further than that and declared that by the concept of reality is meant nothing more than economic reality. As a result, Progressive literature stood up as a representation or reflection of economic reality. In this manner, the aesthetics of literature, God forbid, became the aesthetics of ugliness and deformation or distortion. There was a need to resist this situation, but awareness/consciousness is necessary for resistance. In the sphere of modern Urdu literature, nobody other than Muhammad Hasan Askari and Saleem Ahmed had the realization of this situation. For the rest of the people, the “modern ways” themselves reached the status of ‘Divine Inspiration” (afflatus).

The most dreadful consequence of our individual and collective character becoming split was that our research abilities either diminished, or our depth and understanding has become superficial and accustomed to trivial meanings. For creative work, a sense of consciousness of the wholeness of being is necessary. And these things can be available only when our individual and collective character follows one principle. From this perspective, the concept of being non-Westernized or de-Westernized means to keep making our individual and collective character subject to one principle and keep cleansing ourselves of the experience of duality. Iqbal has stated the fundamental point regarding what its method is and what can we achieve from its consequences. Iqbal said:

کی محمدؐ سے وفا تُونے تو ہم تیرے ہیں
یہ جہاں چیز کیا ہے لوح و قلم تیرے ہیں

(If you remain loyal to Muhammad (PBUH), we are yours

What is this world? The divine Tablet and Pen are yours)