ISLAM AND THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION


Beliefs & Practices, Chapter 02, Islam & Modernism / Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Life is constantly on the move. Every new era is associated with new circumstances and fresh problems. But the great revolution which the world has experienced after the invention of Machine, has affected every sphere of life. It has opened the doors of research and observation for every art and science, and has created some new problems in every section of life. If we look into the teachings of religions other than Islam we find that they are not capable of absorbing the great revolution in them. The fountainhead of these teachings was human intellect rather than the Divine Revelation (Wahy), hence they had neither a full cognition of human nature nor were they based on the considerations of changing circumstances of time, nor did they have an insight on the possible future happenings. The result is that most of the original teachings of those religions have died under the loads of machines. Now there exist only two possibilities before the followers of these religions. They have to say good bye to their religion if they want to keep pace with the march of time, and if their religion is dearer to them they have to turn away from the light of thought and cognition and make themselves an isolated group of people who do not belong to the twentieth century. However, some people have designed an intermediary way to reshape and modify their religion in order to make it practicable for the present time. But, obviously he is the follower of his own whims and not his true religion. In this case he is deprived of the religion he followed before. But the matter of Islam is totally different. This is the only religion in the world whose guidance is ever fresh. No revolutions and circumstances make it old. It is fresh today and it will remain fresh as long as the world exists. The reason is obvious. Its percepts and injunctions are not the product of the human brain which is unaware of the coming events. The source of its teachings is the Divine Revelations. The Being who made it the code of life for Mankind is the One who is the Creator of Mankind and the entire universe. He has full knowledge of Man’s nature and his needs. He is fully aware of the changing circumstances and He knows what is going to happen when and where.

It is the miracle of His words that, the rules and regulations laid down by Him in the Qur’an and those preached by His last messenger Muhammad (PBUH) encircle all problems arising till the last day. The world may turn to one side or the other these teachings will continue to provide with. The principles and laws of Islam would always suffice for all times to come.

But it is a pity that a group of people in the Islamic world known as “Modernists” have been unable to get this reality. That is why, in taking their lead from other religions, they have started a campaign of alterations and innovations in Islam. They have made it their duty to prove that every exhibit of the industrial revolution is consistent with Islam. After every such alteration and innovation they present their only argument that Islamic Injunctions must change because the world has greatly changed after the industrial revolution bringing about revolutionary changes in thought and practice.

In this connection we wish to point out two types of changes that have occurred in every walk of life as a result of the industrial revolution of Europe. Some of them were inevitable for the present advancements and without them it was not possible for Science and Technology to have attained the present standard. It was due to these that the world had benefited by the latest inventions, large factories came into being, bridges have been constructed, big dams and useful additions to human knowledge have been made. This aspect of the industrial revolution is indeed commendable and it is imperative for the Islamic world to progress in this field. Islam does not place any obstacle in this direction. Rather, it looks at this achievement of power with approbation.

But, at the same time, there are some changes that are not at all essential for industrial and material progress. The West has associated them to industrial revolution for no reason, and now realizing this error is sighing with grief. Obscenity and nudity, free mixing of men and women, music and dances, interest and birth control are things that have nothing to do with material and industrial progress. Experience has proved that these things have served as an obstacle rather than assistance towards progress.

This is the evil from which the Islamic world has to save itself very diligently. Industrial revolution in the Islamic world has become a necessity, but it should be a revolution free of the profanities of Western civilization which have led them to the brink of total destruction. Unfortunately, our modernist group wants us to accept the industrial revolution of the West as it is, without an iota of change in it, and thus drown ourselves in their ideological and practical aberrances even before the Machine has taken roots in our society. That is why, instead of developing Science and Technology, this group is spending its energy in molding Islam to bring it in conformity with Western civilization. Supporting this new viewpoint the official spokesman of monthly ‘Fikr-o-Nazar’ of the Institute of Islamic Research, writes as under:

“The entire life style of Pakistan will be changed after the completion of the fourth five-year plan. The rule of machine will prevail, and due to this family life will change, economy and social values will change, there will be changes in the relations between man and woman, and obviously, individual and collective thinking will be affected, and people will think more positively”. (Fikr-o-Nazar p.733, voL2, p.12)

It is obvious that such people do not want to make any distinction between the industrial revolution of the Islamic World and that of the West. Our humble submission is that the “rule of machine” in the industrial sphere is not negated, what we think highly venomous are the changes in the family life, economy and social values, relationship of man and woman and the thought of general people.

These “changes” do not match with the temperament of Islamic ideologies. A study of Industrial Revolution of the West itself leads us to think that we shall have to abstain from these “changes” if we want to lead a peaceful life despite the sway of machine in our lives.

The philosopher-poet of Pakistan, Iqbal, had a deep insight into the state of West, he said:

“Christianity (in Europe) is blackened with the smoke of machines”

And,

“The rule of machine is the death of soul.

Instruments only crush the sense of tolerance.”

It will not be proper to deduce from the above that he was allergic to machines and instruments or that he opposed the progress of Technology. What he means is that the evil which the West has imposed on them along with the machines is detestable and should be avoided.

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