In the previous article (GK, Sep 2,2022), the first of this series, I had attempted to present an overview of how materialism was forced into knowledge and science and how as a consequence the concept of God was divorced from the modern western education system which we have been blindly following ever since the rise of the West.
Henceforth I intend to elaborate upon the same thesis in light of historical events in the fields of religion, philosophy and science.
Before I make a humble venture to do so, I would like to draw the attention of my esteemed readers to two parallel mindsets which are actually existing as two different world views in the contemporary world. These two world views are:
(i) Knowledge is power
(ii) Power is Knowledge
Although there is no gainsaying the fact that the real power which man has been bestowed with by his Creator is his intellect which grows with knowledge, thus making knowledge the real power of man, yet power always tends to corrupt by manipulating and exploiting knowledge for its selfish ends. In this way power curbs man’s latent spiritual tendencies for the realization of his endless material desires.
Problems and Price of Materialism
Education system of a nation essentially depends upon its worldview; upon how that nations understands and then philosophise life. Due to the rise of materialism in the west matter was given unquestioned supremacy over faith.
Hence by essence materialism is against religion and religious emotions, engagement of intellect in search of truth and it is against theocracy in its universal and local terms (Ali Shari’ati, Man and Islam). As a result, so many problems crept into the western mind which were then philosophised and made soul and spirit of the education system.
Foremost of those problems was that knowledge, a purely intellectual effort, was not now, considered the real power but it was matter which ultimately assumed the position of God. Further, materialism advocated that anything that cannot be tested through experience, analysis, logic and reasoning is not real.
The materialists call this view as ‘scientific’ which, according to them intends to build the ‘Promised Land’ (an alternative to the Christian notion of the ‘Promised Land’) on the earth in this life before death. Materialism by its essence proved to be antithesis of religion.
The greatest injustice materialism did to humanity was that it subjugated knowledge and strangulated the people of knowledge and thus, proved its loud claim that the real power is not knowledge but it is power that can decide what is knowledge and what is ignorance by changing the very conception of life itself.
Let’s recall here a beautiful hadith of the most respected and the most beloved messenger of Allāh, Muḥammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) which is recorded in Musnad Ahmad on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (radī Allāhu ‘anhu) that in the end times there will be such a deception that an honest person will be considered as a liar while a liar will be considered as an honest one. This is what was achieved through the hegemony of materialism.
This hadīth aimed to educate the world beforehand, wake man up to the understanding that a time would come when the scales with which people are judged would be altered. True knowledge would be denied as ignorance and ignorance be considered as knowledge. That is how actually power corrupts when people of ignorance are honoured and people of knowledge dishonoured. Now let’s try to understand how this deception took place.
In the 2nd century C.E. there lived a man in Greece named Claudius Ptolemy (AD 100-170). He was a mathematician, geographer and more importantly an astronomer. He accepted Aristotle’s (384–322 BC) idea that the Sun and the planets revolve around the Earth. This is called the Geocentric theory of the universe. Although this theory was very controversial, it however, formed the basis of understanding of the motions of stars and planets for centuries.
Meanwhile, as natural with the human psyche, the Geocentric theory of Ptolemy was accepted by the common populace including the religious clergy as admitted science in the same admiration as do we take Theory of Evolution today, forming the most prominent part of our biological studies.
Unfortunately, during that period the problem with the religious clergy in the West was actually of low self-esteem. In order to continue full authority on the people, they would miss no chance to scienticise their religion and make amendments in it to the extent that whatever was accepted by the people as science and knowledge, the clergy would jump to claim that the same had already been in the Scripture.
But when later the same thing would be proved to be unscientific, they would not hesitate to accuse the scientists of heresy and punish them. The Qur’an terms this kind of attitude as muḍāhat which means imitating even disbelief and falsehood for unfair ends. (9:30)
Hence Geocentric view enjoyed religious patronage for a long time until at the beginning of the 16th century it was challenged by another astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) who proposed that the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun.
Galileo’s observations by his telescopes strengthened his belief in Copernicus’ Heliocentric model of the universe. Obviously, he was met with opposition. The most vehement opposition came from within the Catholic Church which took it as heresy. Hence the matter was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, which concluded that Heliocentrism was foolish, absurd, and heretical since it contradicted the Holy Scripture.
So as a heretic Galileo had to pay the price. However, under the explicit threat of torture in the hands of power, science had to make a retreat and so Galileo backed down and signed an abject recantation.
Earlier during Bruno’s time (1548-1600) when most educated Catholics subscribed to the same Aristotelian geocentric view, the Roman Inquisition sentenced Bruno to be burned to death for the same heretical ideas which he refused to recant.
Although such freethinkers and scientists were tortured for their many other heretical ideas against religion but finally all this brough about the tragic conflict between religion and science in the West.
But at the same time, as mentioned briefly in my previous article, when the West was drowned in the depths of darkness, the Muslim world was fast progressing in the field of science in compliance to its religious teachings regarding knowledge and investigation in the backdrop of which the Muslim mind knew no contradiction between religion and science.
They only knew that the Qur’an repeatedly praises knowledge, respects people of knowledge and does not accept any kind of dichotomy in this regard in the name of this-worldly knowledge and that-worldly knowledge—knowledge is a unity as is Allāh, the ultimate source of knowledge, One. In fact, the ill-conceived tug of war between science and religion was a problem of those who are now claiming to be the stalwarts of the solution.
This is the background of renaissance or rebirth in the West which occurred after the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages and was associated with great social change. It marked the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity among the values of which humanism assumed the central position and religion and its values were banished from knowledge.
To be continued….
Dr Nazir Ahmad Zargar, Coordinator, Department of Religious Studies, Central University of Kashmir, Ganderbal.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.