About the Book
This is the first ever English translation of the thought-provoking book ‘Tezeeb ki Teshkeel-i-Jadid’ with extensive quotations from authentic sources.
Various aspects of Culture vis-a-vis Islam is dealt with in this book in greater details, With a sincere effort to bring out the essence of reality lies hidden beneath the facade of well being. The English translation would also help increase its readership and initiate a meaningful discussion on the subject.
I have had the occassion, through, thanks to the author’s courtesy, to go through his erudite and thought-provoking book “Tabzeeb ki Tashkeel-i-jadid” which I would translate as ‘Civilisation Reconstructed. The book was first published in 1973. It is but appropriate that it has been translated into English. The translation would increase its readership manifold and spark a meaningful discussion on a subject that touches humankind so intimately.
Maulana Hafiz Mohammad Taqi Amini, Professor of Theology in Aligarh Muslim University ‘is widely respected not only as a profound scholar but also as an original thinker. His orthodoxy is not hide-bound. His is an inquisitive spirit. Not for him the docile acceptance of whatever has been handed down by tradition. His irresistible habit is to question. He goes behind what finds facile acceptance among the faithful. He goes back in time and delves into man’s efforts to arrive at the truth and to know the why and wherefore of things? What is the essence of reality? What lies hidden underneath the facade of material well being? What does human nature consist of? How, during the ages has man endeavoured to subdue his animal instincts? From paganism to revealed religion what domains of experience have been traversed by man in different climes and countries? How revealed religion, time and again ‘failed to retain its pristine purity and got mixed with the rites and customs it had endeavoured to replace and the passions and desires it had sought to curb? How the carnal-the corporeal and the physical infiltrated into the spiritual and the austere? What relationship should exist between crime and purnishment? How can a permissive society contain the consequences of an untrammelled behaviour which inevitably becomes lewd, coarse and uncouth spelling the gravest danger to all that civilization stands for?
These are some of the questions that the author asks himself and. proceeds to answer. The extensive and relevant quotations that one finds strewn in the book reveal that the author has wandered far and wide in search of the truth. These quotations are neither pedantic nor decorative. They serve to widen the horizon in the manner the portrayal of the historical background does. They also serve as desiderata for the argument and springboard for a perceptive discussion of the subject at issue. They do not interrupt either the narrative or the argument but advance either. They indicate that what is being said does not stem from the caprice of an isolated author but has behind it the weight of the probings and questionings of the human soul in different countries and at different times.
Professor Amini has made Islam his sheet-anchor. He has tried to prove that the reconstruction of civilization that Islam - the last revealed Word of God - has essayed, seeks to strike a balance between the physical and the spiritual forces inherent in man.
The style of discussion adopted in this book steers clear of tame acquiescence on the one hand and aggressive rejection on the other. The author’s approach is rational. He reasons out the tenets of what he has come to believe. This is the culmination of a life-long study of the evolution of, what for want of a better term may be called, man’s moral phyche. It is the story of the Pilgrim’s Progress that is narrated here on a collective plane and a wider canvas.
While going through the book one gets the impression that the author’s intellectual quiver is full of arrows. One idea follows another in quick succession. One could wish for a more detailed discussion of the issues raised. The author himself would have preferred it. But constraints of space intervened and deprived the readers of a more copious dissertation on many an issue. But Prof. Aminis’ career as an author, happily, is nowhere near its end. Come to think of it, the very fact that an Alim brought up in the orthodox Madarsa tradition has claimed evolution of civilization as his province, is itself a welcome break from erudite insularity.
The encyclopaedists of western culture usually get divided into two groups. One group is that which would not bear any kind of intrusion of the East into the West. The other group is that which recognizes the operative influence of the East in every cultural construct. Scholars have given various reasons for the two extreme positions. Among them are national prejudice, the after- effects of the crusades, the lack of knowledge and research, sentimentality and superficiality.
With any fairness, it cannot be denied that the West has greatly benefitted from the East in matters of cultural buila-up. But the psychological foundations for this build-up have been transplanted directly from Greek and Roman culture. Speaking of the benefit the West has derived from the East, Robert Brefault says that the fire that lighted once again the lamp of culture had not arisen from the embers that were smouldering in the ruins of Europe. In fact the fire had not come from the north; it had come with the southern invaders of the empire: the Arabs (Making of Humanity).
At another place Brefault observes that the power that changed the shape of the physical and the intellectual world was the product of the close inter-relationship that obtained among the astronomers, alchemists and members of the medical institutions of the later Middle ages; and this inter-relationship was the result only of the impact of Arab culture. All the scientific achievements in Europe till the end of the fifteenth century had been derived from the knowledge and learning of the Arabs. The writer is aware that he has spoken rather in detail on the contribution of Arab culture towards the cultural awakening of Europe. But misrepresentations of our time have grown to such all extent that to eliminate them he thinks this detail was necessary.
Toynbee has also spoken again and again of the beneficial influence of the Muslims on the westerners. He says that the western Christians derived full benefit from the researches of contemporary Muslim scholars and intellectuals. They derived full benefit even from that system of numerical science which is popularly called Arabic system - though it originated from India. Toynbee goes on to say that the West has advanced far beyond what it inherited from Muslims in the field of science. But the influences of the Syriac culture on the impressionable western Christianity cannot be ignored.
Psychological Foundations Imported from Greece and Rome
With regard to the psychological foundations of western culture the following observations have been made:
The lineage of western culture goes back to the clear and well-argued manner of the ancient Greeks.
Western culture has the same relation to Greek culture as the child has to the father.
Essentially, what lies at the back of the western mind is ancient Greek culture, which chose for its manifestation the human body.
The European mind is different from the oriental and Islamic mind in that it has at its back Greece and Rome. This is the most prominent feature of its structure and functioning. The liberalism of the Greeks and the Romans; their concept of freedom; their system of medical treatment; their spirit of enquiry; their secular and worldly-minded outlook; their critical attitude; and their unflinching and free mode of critical assessment of the works of human intellect - all these things have made the western world possible.
The above observations give importance to Greece and not to Rome because in science, philosophy, poetry and literature Rome was subservient to Greece. It was the consequence of this subservience of Roman culture to Greece that Rome was able to partake of the economic and political development which was characteristic of the Greek states or their satellites. Roman went through all the phases of this development; but it always lagged behind Athens by a span of almost 150 years.
For comprehending the psychological moorings of western culture it would not be irrelevant to have a survey of the religions and moral climate of the Graeco-Rome culture of pre- Christian times.
The Religious and Moral Ethos of the Greeks
Before the philosophical era in Greece and even for a long period after its emergence we do not find evidence of any religious belief directly emanating from revelation and being capable of providing moral and social guidance to the Greeks.
The religion of the ancient Greeks like that of the Indian Aryans was a religion of the worship of nature and gods and godesses related to them. Along with the worship of the sky, the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars etc. there was also the cult of phallic worship. Among the phallic deities Dionysous was particularly important. In his name a great Greek festival called Dionysia was held, and on the eve of this festival men and women had the licence of indulging freely in sexual orgy. Similarly towards the beginning of April a big festival was held in the honour of Venus Aphrodite the godess that represented the female sex. Those who participated in it had also a licence of sexual indulgence. Besides phallic deities there was a long pantheon of various deities who were supposed to live on Olympus and precide over various activities and functions.
According to the Greek belief Greek deities were not self- created, but were children of the Earth and the Sky. This is why among the Greeks there was no deity having the status of ‘the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds’. Though Zeus was the chief of the deities, he too could not acquire that status.
Religion is usually directed to the purification of moral sense - and the setting of norms in the field of thought and action; but it is the consensus of the scholars that Greek religion had spoiled the moral of the people by giving them licence. The kind of moral education conducted in cities like Athens show that the above mentioned Pantheon of gods and goddess and nothing to do with that moral education. It was due to consolidated effort of some philosophers of the early Greek civilization and of some jurists and some priests of the temple of Delphi.
Greek Philosophy Lacked the Capability of Guidance
Around 400 B.C when there occurred a spurt of intellectual activity in Greece the nature of the established religion was also changed with the new advancements in science and philosophy. 11lUS the intellectual feats of Socrates (469 B.C. - 399 s.c.), Plato (b. 427 B.C.), Aristotle (b. 384 B.C.) etc. Introduced the Greeks to a religion which had its basis in philosophy instead of superstition. As is usual, these philosophers at first met with great hostility and the established religious dispensation condemned them as irreligious; but in course of time the hostility decreased, and by virtue of the influence of their philosophy the Greeks turned to believe in one God. As this philosophy spread, the Greeks tried to make it their guide in life. But philosophy, on account of its basic limitations as philosophy, could not become a substitute for religion, nor could it develop the capability of social and moral guidance. To mention some of these basic limitations:
(1) Philosophy cannot be charged with passionate feelings, spiritual vision and faith; nor can it provide spiritual appeasement.
(2) The appeasement provided by philosophy is intellectual, and therefore, reductive; it cannot be of help in enabling man to bear the unpleasantness of life, nor can it bless him with any hope for future.
(3) Philosophy has no attraction for the common people and its area of appeal does not extend beyond a particular, elitistic class.
The Romans Welcomed the Influence of Greece
After the decline of the Greek civilisation (around 146 b.c.) the Romans took the place of the Greeks in the cultural world. In spite of their decline the greatest cultural conquest of the Greeks was the fact that their culture was adopted by the Romans. Thus we find that before the Romans adopted Christianity their religion seems to be very much full of Greek influence. Many of their deities seem to be imported from Greece and behave like the Greek deities in being in charge of certain functions. Similarly in matters of science and philosophy, literature and poetry, civilisation and culture, Rome drew upon Greece.
The highest deity of the Romans who was the patron of Rome and the king of all the gods and goddesses was called Jupiter. He was the king of heaven and the other deities occupied a subordinate position as his ministers.
Scholars are of the view that beliefs formed a comparatively small part of the Roman religion, and that more emphasis was laid on rituals than on belief or faith. It was for this reason that the ritualistic religion remained insulated against .the formative influences of philosophy and even survived these influences. Thus many intellectuals kept observing the rituals in spite of their liberal thinking and emancipation from religious beliefs. As scholars have pointed out, Roman religion did not inculcate any moral sense - their deities were not associated with any moral concept either; rather, the immoral stories prevalent about various pagan deities had become part of the Roman religious tradition.
In respect of religion the Roman intellectuals were divided into two groups. One of these groups was theistic. Reaction against polytheism was developing in it as it had developed in the case of Greek intellectuals, which reaction ultimately made the Romans turn to belief in One God. The Roman intellectuals had reached this belief through the concept of monism. In those days monism was an effort to reach out to a rationalistic under- standing of God and of His relation to Universe. Many monistic intellectuals justified idol worship in spite of this belief in One God- because they thought that for the common people it was a means of arriving at the conception of the One God.
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