Enraged with Modernity

by Abu Mastul ibn Wayn al-Masari, head of Occidental Studies, Baghdad University

Praise be to God, the Just and the Avenger, and may He bless His messenger Muhammad, and his family and companions, and give them peace.

As the dust of the Twin Towers of New Damascus settles, sons of the city struggle to aid their brothers and to comprehend the extent of the monstrous atrocities which have been inflicted on them. And as we pause Bedouin-poet-like on the ruins of these once-great buildings and decide how to wage our jihad for justice, we cannot but ask ourselves what sick medieval “Crusader” ideology could motivate such a heinous attack not just on New Damascus, but on civilisation as a whole. One thing is for certain and cannot be doubted: that life will never be the same again. And although reprisals against ethnic minorities within the House of Islam are keenly to be discouraged, Christians who live in our society must search their consciences. Either they are with the Muslim Community, or they are against it; the time has come for them to choose.

I do not mean to suggest in what will follow that I am against Christianity in itself. Our religion as well as our Civilisation command respect of this religion, its roots in the teachings of Jesus son of Mary (peace be upon him) and its great past achievements. Nor would I like to say that one culture is superior to another – surely we are past that kind of quibble? But the scourge of our modern day and the plague of our contemporary age and the affliction of our present time is extremism and excess of whatever sort it may be. Faced with Christians dancing in the streets in Hibernia, and angry demonstrations in Byzantium, we must ask ourselves if excess is not endemic to Christendom. Some of the more “sympathetic” Occidentalists have outlined the cultural achievements of Byzantium and Rome, and the purity of visionaries such as St Teresa of al-Andalus. But the way backward thinking appears to recur throughout the House of Christendom would seem to disconfirm that analysis. Far be it from us to gloat, rather we are concerned and anxious, and it is with heavy heart and afflicted liver that we must ask ourselves these questions. Let us start with the foundation of culture in Christendom, the Bible.
From the start, Muslim rulers have been inclined to accommodate different religions inside one polity. God Almighty said, “There is no compulsion in religion,” and “You have your religion, and I have my religion.” Thus despite the many inadequacies of that otherwise so benighted dynasty, the Umayyads never attempted to put Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians to the sword. Christians had important charges in the civil service and played a major part in developing our civilisation. Greek science was encouraged. But Christendom’s attitude to Islam was invariably one of rejection. It was unable to preserve the learning of the Greeks and Byzantines. It burned Jews and “heretics” at the stake. Books which did not conform to the rigorous dogmatism of the priests’ orthodoxy would be cast into the flames, often together with their authors.

The messenger of God (peace be upon him) said: “Live in your earthly life as if you would live forever, and live for your afterlife as if you would die tomorrow.” This reflects a system which was capable of accommodating both elements in an all-inclusive whole. In Christendom, on the other hand, separation of powers never made its appearance. Christian polemicists nowadays, keen to justify their faith before a predominantly Muslim audience, like to insist ad nauseam on how the Jesus of the Gospels “gave to Caesar what belonged to Caesar and to God what belonged to God.” But Early Christians were exclusively preoccupied with their own austere, puritanical and messianic religion, at the expense of any other dimension. It is therefore no wonder that once they obtained power, they were unable to balance it with faith. Christianity did not cover the possibility that a Christian might one day hold office. The Gospel says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Islam was in its very essence more conducive to trade. The Qur’an tells us to “weigh fairly”; the Jesus of the Gospels overturned the tables in the temple. But this was not an attitude on which a successful state could be founded.

Power in the Islamic community was separated between the Caliphs and Vizirs on the one hand and the community of scholars on the other. In Christendom, it was concentrated in the hands of a Pope who used religion to justify his own petty campaigns, not to mention the viciously backward concept of “Crusade,” or Holy War. I need not say more about the sadly notorious depredations which were to follow. It is not merely an Occidentalist truism to state that “Christendom is not only a faith but also a political programme.” This is certainly true of the extremists who presumably masterminded last Tuesday’s attacks. But Christendom has always oscillated between neglect of the physical world and excessive dilution into it. When the latter has been the case, this fact “has given Christianity extraordinary powers of survival, but at the same time it has always interfered with the capacity of Christians to organise themselves,” as two noted Occidentalists have concluded.

The root cause of all this is in the Bible. The Bible has its moments of spirituality and indeed poetry, but it is by no means free of bloodshed and barbarism. With its numerous translations and corruptions, it was of little use in developing a viable culture. It is perhaps no coincidence that the term “vulgate,” which was used by scholars of Christendom to designate the Latin translation of the Bible, derives from the common European word “vulgar” which means rough or unrefined. The occidental mind has also shown itself to be prone to getting lost within itself in bickering about theology. The same is true of literature. Islam gave us the lively arguments of Jahiz, the witty tales of Hamadani, the verbal acrobatics of Mutanabbi, the lucidity of Ghazali, the poetic profundity of Ibn al-Farid and Rumi. Christendom gave us stale courtly love poems, Dante’s morbid dirge about Hell, and a less than edifying set of tales about Canterbury. Fiction is antithetic to the Occidental mind.

It is no coincidence, then, that the House of Islam was able to start its second flood of expansion. The Mongols and Turks were incorporated into the Community, conquering Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean bit by bit. In Spain, their rivals the Almohads repelled the so-called “re-conquest.” From here Hammal Issa al-Hamama discovered the New World, with all its fabulous riches and untold wealth. As Christendom retired further and further into retrograde papism and pathetic “reformation,” the Orient brought about its Industrial Revolution.

Christian activists may bemoan the situation in certain colonies, but this is surely where the roots of the rage lie. Christendom was never able to reconcile itself to the way the world changed. Disorientated in an age of progress in which it had no part to play, it responded with blind anger. Christendom is “enraged with modernity.” These are the disillusioned serfs that follow a demagogue like the terrorist leader Duke Leo. And it is these people that the vizir Shajara Ibn Shajara must target first in his freshly announced bombing jihad to eliminate terrorism. And may God help us against every harm and protect us against every evil, and may the peace and mercy of God and His blessings be with you.

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