Keeler’s “Rethinking Islam and the West” analyses the Western world view, until relatively recently unquestioned, that of ever continuing human progress.
He directly relates this present Age of Crises to adherence to this myth and the loss of balance in modern life; “the balance between the material and the spiritual, and between ourselves and the environment in which we live.”
Although the West grew up under the shadow of the Islamic world, it became the conqueror and subjugator of all other cultures and civilisations, the Islamic world included.
During the Enlightenment in the West, a revolutionary new narrative developed to replace the Christian narrative of salvation. This was the narrative of human progress.
“This new narrative saw the Christian millenium as a dark age of ignorance and superstition. It became known as the Medieval or Middle Ages, a period between the illumination of the ancients and the light of the modern world.”
While the Industrial Revolution is portrayed as a great leap forwards for humanity, Keeler points to another reality.
“The impoverishment which took place during the 19th Century, with its plantations, mines and sweatshops, was the creation of the Europeans, and it was out of this destruction of living cultures and civilisations that the Industrial Revolution was born and the modern world came into being.”
This “progress” also brought us global warming, the atom bomb, devastation caused by chemicals, a tottering financial system, antibiotic resistance, the terrorist perversion of Islam and the world refugee crisis emerging from the War on Terror in the Middle East.
“In looking for a new story, a narrative which can make more sense of our past and the situation in which we now find ourselves, a criterion needs to be found in place of that of progress, and I believe this to be the criterion of balance.”
This is “…represented by the Arabic term mizan, which can be translated as balance, justice, measure, harmony or indeed, weighing scales.”
The primacy of mizan is presented in the 55th chapter or sura of the Quran, Al-Rahman:7-9.
It is the incapacity to understand the concept of ‘dynamic equilibrium,’ which is defined as ‘a state of balance between continuing processes,’ that had led the modern to regard pre-modern, traditional cultures and civilisations as static and stagnant.
Each traditional civilisation contains a sacred centre which is unchanging and it is this sacred centre that contains its life-force. When it is compromised, the civilisation runs down.”
“Islamic civilisation has an incredibly powerful sacred centre. … the Revelation of the Quran and the life of the Prophet, and emanating from these, the Five Pillars of Islam.”
In Islam, “ …human vicegerency involves a duty towards God, to the creation, and to fellow human beings.”
The West has lost this sacred centre.
The 1648 Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years war between Catholic and Protestant recognised the sovereign nation state.
“With the collapse of Christendom, the primary unifying identity was subsumed into the newly-formed sovereign nation state. What had been a Christian identity became a kind of quasi-sacred national identity.”
“Over the last five hundred years, the West has gone on a journey that began with absolute sovereignty being vested in God, then with it passing into the monarchy and the sovereign nation state, then being vested in the people through democracy, and finally ending up with the sovereignty of the individual.”
This is not the dominant world culture but it dominates Western thinking at present.
Keeler concludes; “Essentially, the situations have been reversed; whereas in the narrative of progress, the Western arc was one of ascension and the Islamic arc one of stagnation and decline, in the new narrative Islam maintained the balance while the West broke it, descending ever more rapidly into the realm of materiality.”
Rethinking Islam and the West. A New Narrative for the Age of Crises. Ahmed Paul Keeler Equilibria Press Cambridge UK 2019.