Page 40 - Islam In Focus

Basic HTML Version

complexity of our contemporary predicaments may be largely due to a similar,
proportionate rise in our expectations and capacities.
For many centuries and in numerous regions of the globe, the chief source of the most
difficult crises has essentially been a kind of inflexible, exclusive, and intolerant
attitude toward the unfamiliar, the different, and the foreign. This orientation fostered
racism, elitism, bigotry, prejudice, and a whole host of other equally distasteful
Few people can really deny that humanity is facing an unusual crisis. This present
human crisis seems to emanate from a serious imbalance between our external,
outward, material explorations and our internal, inward, moral gropings. Nothing is
simpler than calling for the maintenance of an equilibrium, advocating a “ middle
range,” or crusading for the “ golden means.” Yet nothing has been harder to attain. In
the past, utterances such as man cannot live by bread alone were sometimes so
distorted as to connote disregard for man’ s material welfare. Similarly, trust in God
has been misunderstood; it is often taken to mean helpless fatalism or categorical
denial of human free will and self-realization. An overemphasis on spirituality and
resignation is bound to give rise to a counter emphasis on materialism, rationalism,
“ free will” , and so on. Stressed beyond certain limits, spirituality may become
superstition, and confusion. Likewise, a counter stress may turn materialism into
laxity, free will into libertinism, and rationalism into sheer vanity. The intellectual
history of the last few centuries demonstrates these tendencies only too well.
Over the years of recent decades, the spiritual scale tipped up and down. In the sixties,
and now in the seventies, the news-making events are those of the unsurpassed,
unprecedented, outerspace explorations. Equally sensational are the unprecedented
explorations in the inward, internal realms of being, however faddish, cultic, or
neurotic they may seem to be.
The rise of these two unprecedented and unbalanced types of exploration is
exceptionally alarming. The reason probably lies in the fact that the two types do not
seem to relate to each other, let alone converge. There is no apparent reciprocity,
mutual reinforcement, or crossfertilization. Besides, their precarious, unbalanced
existence is a constant threat to the majority of people. It may very well drive them
into ambivalence and confusion which may, in turn, intensify the problems of society
and harden the lot of modern man. But such a precarious course can be changed if the
outward scientific explorations and the inward moral gropings are somehow
reconciled. Man does not live by bread alone. That is true enough. But neither does he
live by prayers only. He is both a political or materialistic animal and a religious
explorer of the holy.
As already mentioned, the contemporary world is clearly baffled by numerous
problems. But it is equally baffled by the conflicting diagnoses and prescriptions to
cope with these problems. Some people sing along with the popular lyric, “ what the
world needs now is love . . .etc.” Some call for a human rebirth. Others turn to
Marxism, Humanism, Satanism, or Scientism as the ultimate solution. Still more are
awaiting the arrival of some future Savior. Yet this long list does not even include the
indifferent, the hopeless, and the apathetic who may in fact outnumber the optimist
clubs combined. But it seems that the greatest need today is the pressing need for