Materialism of West and Rejection of Faith

What is materialism and how it affects our Islamic society in thought and thereby relieves the devotion in actions, has emerged as a very important concern in the modern Islamic society.

The word ‘materialism’ has many uses in our day to day languages and has different fields of application. In terms of realism and materialism, everything which is matter and is captured by senses is related to materialism within ‘time and space’ and hence this use has no contradiction to the religious ideology and faith in God. Instead, this acts as a medium to understand the Creator of the ‘matter’. Therefore this particular usage of term “materialism” is a guiding force towards faith and religion. The relations of principles and laws, in this matter are most important witness of the creator in universe.

But the term “materialism”, when used in the context of refusing the existence of anything beyond matter, represented in the Western philosophy by a particular school of thought, which conveys that existence and law exist in the confinement of matter and therefore existence is confined within the boundaries of change and transformation , and is all matter and exist within ‘time and space’ and no creator exists. Western Materialism limits everything to the ‘time and space’ and claiming confinement of matter. In other words, it briefs that there exist nothing beyond that which is seen, felt by man and is changing, directly denying the authority of the one who is above ‘time and space’ and who is above matter.

They deny everything which is beyond senses like which cannot be touched, seen , tasted, heard or smelt. This materialism has created a concern for the religious societies particularly the present Islamic society which is imitating the western philosophy. This is influencing the societies, in one or the other way, from last few centuries, mainly because of the ignorance of common Muslims of the real Islamic philosophical approach. The following ‘Materialism’ has resulted, at the end, in the trend towards atheism and in the rejection of ‘God’. If we go through Islamic philosophy, we don’t have to find causes of human bend towards religion and believing in God, as it is in the creation and existence of human beings, instead we have to search the causes leading to one’s rejection of this natural tendency of human mind and existence.

This problem is not new in the human society ,(that leads a common man to reject the basic instinct of believing in the God, who is Creator and above matter, time and space) but it has walked in the time lanes throughout the development of human being. It has reached its apex in the West by latest Industrialization and has established itself as a particular school of thought. The traces of this school of thought are found in the Greek before Socrates and his philosophy, as per many scholars. This thought also existed during the Prophet (saww) period in Arab Jahiliyyah, as al-Quran points to it:

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The people, who belonged to this ideology, which is a mere confusion, were also famous as ‘Dahriyyah’, as presented in the above verse, in the Islamic world and vanished in front of Islamic philosophy. During eighteenth and nineteenth century materialism emerged as a recognized school of thought in the West and tried to create an atmosphere of chaos in which they tried to express that development in the fields of learning and education has lead to the conclusion of ‘materialism’, which is actually a big lie because most of the learned men, scientists and physists have through learning reached the conclusion of the ‘Creator’s creation’. Also, we have both classes, materialists as well as believers, from the modern educational development, as we found Bertrand Russell signifying the materialists while we have Albert Einstein representing believers, who is claiming that the universe is occupied by a special intellect and power (who is God) and all the things in universe are witness to his reality. Therefore in terms of ‘materialism’, the modern learning and education represent contradictory opinion hence we have Russell as the materialist contradicting William James and Einstein.  So it cannot be ruled out that development in education and learning, science and technology is the cause of this anti-faith materialism approach. Therefore we must search the main cause of this materialism in the Western societies where it originated and later reached the Islamic countries.

Scholars have proved that the most important thing which lead to development of the thought of materialism in the West-which later reached the East through Western education-is having two important causes which are directly related to the Church and its functioning .The role of church in developing materialism in west is debated by large number of scholars, who convey that the church’s religious philosophy was very weak in explaining the Creator and metaphysics related to faith. Secondly, the harshness and coarseness of the church on the people who denied the ‘forced belief’ and who faced harshness in the freely discussing faith and hence a forced faith on the people let the materialism take strong roots (this ‘Forced Belief’ is also penetrating into the societies of Islamic world through some western entities and agencies, keeping in consideration some desired anti-Islamic results).

Church philosophy regarding God and religion was very weak to answer the new and basic queries emerging in the modern man’s mind. Church had defined God in such a way that, it seemed that God has a post in the universe, which was conveyed by August Kant when he says that the God ‘s post defined by Church, has been replaced by man and now God has no role to play. This was perhaps because of the Church’s explaining the God ‘as a part of universe’ and including Him within the boundaries of ‘matter, time and space’- which is totally opposite of the Islamic philosophy that proves the fact ‘God is not limited by universe’ but is free from matter, time and space, as being the creator of ‘time, space and matter’. This has been debated and discussed by large number of Islamic scholars throughout the Islamic history, which has not reached the intellectuals of the West in the proper way. This topic has reached the zenith in the periods of Ibn Sina, Gazzali, Mulla Sadra etc.

The topic of harshness of church towards free discussion of faith and understanding of God is recorded in the large number of books that have been written in the West. This harshness has created an atmosphere of hatred towards the religion and religious definition of Creator and God. This has also resulted as per psychoanalysts as a sense of escapism from the harshness and cruelty of Church towards intellect and free-understanding. This is also a vast topic in creation of materialistic approach in the world, which cannot be discussed in detail here.

Islamic philosophy, on the other hand, explains that God is the creator of universe and the creator of everything which it possesses. Everything has one relation with God, that is He gave it existence and hence everything depends for its existence on God. These things are as beautiful signs and perfect symbols of proving his existence. He cannot be judged by ‘cause and effect’ because He is above it. He created ‘ time and space’ and He created the ‘cause and effect’ which exists within the ‘time and space’ and his essential existence was before ‘time and space’ and will remain after ‘time and space’, signifying his infiniteness and essential eternity, refuting materialism.

(The Writer is an Arabic Literary Scholar and Founder of ASAR Literary Foundation, Qom, Iran. He can be mailed at [email protected])

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