Leaders attending Rabin's funeral include, from left, Britain's John
Major and Prince Charles; Germany's Helmut Kohl and Roman Herzog;
the UN's Boutros Boutros-Ghali; Hosni Mubarak of Egypt; Hillary and
President Clinton; Prime Minister Kim Kok and Queen Beatrix of the
Netherlands; and Israel's Shimon Peres.
|And he shall
confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the
midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation
to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he
shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that
determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
|14 Wherefore hear the word of the
LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
Islamic spirituality and
the decline of the West
I start from the belief that Islamic civilization at
its best, like many of the religions of the East
I believe that process could help in the task of bringing our two faiths closer together. It could also help us in the West to rethink, and for the better, our practical stewardship of man and his environment in fields such as health-care, the natural environment and agriculture, as well as in architecture and urban planning.
Modern materialism is unbalanced and increasingly damaging in its long-term consequences. Yet nearly all the great religions of the world have held an integral view of the sanctity of the world. The Christian message with, for example, its deeply mystical and symbolic doctrine of the Incarnation, has been traditionally a message of the unity of the worlds of spirit and matter, and of God's manifestation in this world and in mankind.
But during the past three centuries, in the Western world at least, a dangerous division has occurred in the way we perceive the world around us. Science has tried to assume a monopoly even a tyranny over our under standing. Religion and science have become separated, so that now, as Wordsworth said, "Little we see in nature that is ours". Science has attempted to take over the natural world from God; it has fragmented the cosmos and relegated the sacred to a separate and secondary compartment of our understanding, divorced from practical, day to day existence.
We are only now beginning to gauge the disastrous
results. We in the Western world seem to have lost a
sense of the wholeness of our environment, and of our
immense and inalienable responsibility to the whole of
creation. This has led to an increasing failure to
appreciate or understand tradition and the wisdom of our
forebears, accumulated over the centuries. Indeed, tradition
is positively discriminated against as if it were some
socially unacceptable disease.
In my view, a more holistic approach is needed now. Science has done the inestimable service of showing us a world much more complex than we ever imagined. But in its modern, materialist, one-dimensional form, it cannot explain everything. God is not merely the ultimate Newtonian mathematician or the mechanistic clockmaker. As science and technology have become increasingly separated from ethical, moral and sacred considerations, so the implications of such a separation have become more somber and horrifying as we see in genetic manipulation or in the consequences of the kind of scientific arrogance so blatant in the scandal of BSE.
I have always felt that tradition is not a man-made element in our lives, but a God-given intuition of natural rhythms, of the fundamental harmony that emerges from the union of the paradoxical opposites that exist in every aspect of nature. Tradition reflects the timeless order of the cosmos, and anchors us into an awareness of the great mysteries of the universe, so that, as Blake put it, we can see the whole universe in an atom and eternity in a moment.
That is why I believe Man is so much more than just a biological phenomenon resting on what we now seem to define as "the bottom line" of the great balance sheet of life, according to which art and culture are seen increasingly as optional extras in life.
This view is quite contrary, for example, to the outlook of the Muslim craftsman or artist, who is never concerned with display for its own sake, nor with progressing ever forward in his own ingenuity, but is content to submit a man's craft to God. That outlook reflects, I believe, the memorable passage in the Koran, "whithersoever you turn there is the face of God and God is all-embracing, all knowing". While appreciating that this essential innocence has been destroyed, and destroyed everywhere, I nevertheless believe that the survival of civilized values, as we have inherited them from our ancestors, depends on the corresponding survival in our hearts of that profound sense of the sacred and the spiritual.
Traditional religions, with their integral view of the universe, can help us to rediscover the importance of the integration of the secular and the sacred. The danger of ignoring this essential aspect of our existence is not just spiritual or intellectual. It also lies at the heart of that great divide between the Islamic and Western worlds over the place of materialism in our lives. In those instances where Islam chooses to reject Western materialism, this is not, in my view, a political affectation or the result of envy or a sense of inferiority. Quite the opposite.
And the danger that the gulf between the worlds of Islam and the other Eastern religions on the one hand and the West on the other will grow ever wider and more unbridgeable is real, unless we can explore together practical ways of integrating the sacred and the secular in both our cultures in order to provide a true inspiration for the next century.
Islamic culture in its traditional form has striven to preserve this integrated, spiritual view of the world in a way we have not seen fit to do in recent generations in the West. There is much we can learn from that Islamic world view in this respect.
There are many ways in which mutual understanding and
appreciation can be built. Perhaps, for instance, we
could begin by having more Muslim teachers in British
schools, or by encouraging exchanges of teachers.
Everywhere in the world people want to learn English. But
in the West, in turn, we need to be taught by Islamic
teachers how to learn with our hearts, as well as our heads. The
approaching millennium may be the ideal catalyst for
helping to explore and stimulate
|For confirmation, check these links:
News story in the Times: http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/96/12/14/timnwsnws03035.html?1124027
News story about Rabin's funeral: http://detnews.com/menu/stories/23682.htm
Back to Great Joy in Great Tribulation