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Eaton, Gai - Islam and the Destiny of Man

Eaton, Gai - Islam and the Destiny of Man



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Published by Sadif

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Published by: Sadif on May 28, 2008
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Islam And The Destiny Of ManGai Eaton
IntroductionPart I AN APPROACH TO THE FAITH1 Islam and Europe2 Continuity and Contrast3 Truth and MercyPart II THE MAKING OF THE FAITH4 The World of the Book5 The Messenger of God6 The City of the Prophet7 The Successors8 The Way of the WorldPart III THE FRUITS OF THE FAITH9 The Rule of Law10 The Human Paradox11 Art, Environment and Mysticism12 Other Dimensions
INTRODUCTIONReligion is a different matter.Other subjects may lend themselves, in varying degree, to objective study, and insome cases personal commitment serves only to distort what should be a clearand balanced picture. Religion is a different matter because here objectivity onlyskims the surface, missing the essential. The keys to understanding lie within theobserver's own being and experience, and without these keys no door will open. This is particularly true of Islam, a religion which treats the distinction betweenbelief and unbelief as the most fundamental of all possible distinctions,comparable on the physical level to that between the sighted and the blind.Believing and understanding complement and support one another. We do notseek for an adequate description of a landscape from a blind man, even if he hasmade a scientific study of its topography and has analyzed the nature of its rocksand vegetation. In Islam every aspect of human life, every thought and everyaction, is shaped and evaluated in the light of the basic article of faith. Removethis linchpin and the whole structure falls apart.For the unbeliever this article of faith is meaningless and, in consequence, nothingelse in the life of the Muslim makes sense. Even for the faithful Christian the'sublime' and the 'mundane' relate to different dimensions, and he is disturbed byany confusion between the two. Islam does not recognize this division. For theMuslim, his worship and his manner of dealing with his bodily functions, his searchfor holiness and his bartering in the market, his work and his play are elements inan indivisible whole which, like creation itself, admits of no fissures. A single keyunlocks the single door opening on to the integrated and tight-knit world of theMuslim. That key is the affirmation of the divine Unity, and of all that follows from thisaffirmation, down to its most remote echoes on the very periphery of existence,where existence touches on nothingness. Islam is the religion of all or nothing,faith in a Reality which allows nothing to have independent reality outside its orbit;for if there were such a thing, however distant, however hidden, it would impugnthe perfection and the totality of that which alone is.It follows that one cannot speak of Islam without adopting a specific point of viewand making that point of view quite explicit. This book is written by a Europeanwho became Muslim many years ago, through intellectual conviction and withinthe framework of a belief in the transcendent unity of all the revealed religions. The word 'convert' implies the rejection of one religion in favour of another, butmine was an act of acceptance which carried with it no corresponding act of rejection other than the rejection of the secular, agnostic world of thought in itsentirety.One who enters the community of Islam by choice rather than by birth sinks rootsinto the ground of the religion, the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet; butthe habits and customs of the Muslim peoples are not his. He lacks their strengthsand is immune from their weaknesses; immune, above all, from the psychological'complexes' which are the result of their recent history. He does not become a
mimic Arab, since he knows that Islam, as a world religion, owes both itsendurance and its rich fabric to the entry, century after century, of outlanders:Persians, Berbers, Mongols, Turks, Indians, Malays, Africans. These outlandersoften broke the mould cherished by the Arabs, but they vivified the religion, andwith it the culture and society that are stamped with its mark. Islam has createdan immediately recognizable design for human living, but the way in which thisdesign has been filled out and coloured has differed widely from one region of theDar-ul-Islam (the 'House of Islam') to another; the peacock's tail has been spreadover the world. The European or American who has come to Islam in this way stands astride theoldest frontier in the world, the frontier that has separated Islamic civilization, firstfrom Christendom and later from the post-Christian world, for some thirteencenturies. This is in many ways a strange position to occupy because the frontierruns between two areas of reciprocal incomprehension, and to be at home in bothis, in a sense, to commute between different planetary systems. The Westerner'sinability to understand the Muslim is matched by the Muslim's incapacity tounderstand the Westerner. Those who stand astride the frontier find themselvesobliged to act as interpreters between two different languages and mustthemselves speak both with adequate fluency. The Western Muslim does not change his identity, though he changes hisdirection. He is dyed with the colour characteristic of the culture into which he wasborn and which formed him; he asks the questions which this culture asks; heretains a sense of tragedy and of the world's ambiguity, with which the Europeantradition is imbued but which is strange to the traditional Muslim, and he is stillhaunted by the ghosts of Europe's past. Ancestral voices familiar to his kind arenot silenced, but he has distanced himself from them. The Semitic mind and temperament are legalistic by nature and a certain literal-mindedness is characteristic of the Muslim. The European, on the other hand, ismore concerned with the spirit than with the letter of the law, and he inevitablybrings something of this bias with him into Islam. This may even be the mostuseful contribution he can make to his adopted faith in an age of change andfluidity, in which the outworks of religion are eroded by the times so that it isnecessary, as never before, to establish what are the essentials of the Faith and tohold fast to them. To say this is not to suggest that any part of the total structureis unimportant, but only to emphasize that when a castle is under siege, and alienforces have scaled the outer battlements, one must be ready to man the innerdefences. This book is written for those whose minds have been shaped by Western culture.Given that the contemporary world, as it now exists almost universally, is entirelya product of that culture, I write as much for those of my co-religionists who havereceived a 'modern' education as I do for non-Muslims. Among the former thereare already quite a number who have rediscovered the religion into which theywere born as a result of seeing it through foreign eyes; no longer convinced by thetraditional arguments of their Faith, which sufficed while Islam was a dosedsystem, they have had to dive deep and travel far in order to return to their origin.

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