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Islam & Modernity

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Abdullah Hakim Quick

Channel: Abdullah Hakim Quick

Episode Notes

Islam & Modernity: Introduction and History | Sh. Abdullah Hakim Quick | Mamoun S. Hassan | Islamic Institute of Toronto

Episode Transcript

© No part of this transcript may be copied or referenced or transmitted in any way whatsoever. Transcripts are auto-generated and thus will be be inaccurate. We are working on a system to allow volunteers to edit transcripts in a controlled system.


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There's never been a more exciting time to be a Muslim, the global movement of Muslims, the rise of Islamophobia. And the advancement of information technology has created some beautiful discussion. Today I sit down, we should have a lot in quick to talk about Islam and modernity. And we talk about the rise of Islamophobia. We talk about the rise and fall of Islam, and also some of the conflicts of being a Muslim living in the west side of Chicago, you don't want to look fine.

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So I want to start off inshallah, by quoting, Marshall, Hartson 1983 book that is written here, and this is something I think it's really a great interest isn't a 16th century visitor from Mars might have suppose that the human world was on the verge of becoming Muslim. So he was looking at the time when Islamic civilization as a matter of fact, he actually referred to it as Islam

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was at the top with the peak of the time, and this is the 16th century, talking a little bit about

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how, how we were really as most of the time and what happened for us that we got here. Well, for him, it's important to look at Islam, not in one particular time period, but to connect it up to its evolution, and an event called Dune. You know, the great scholar wrote

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an introduction to a history of the world. He looked at Islamic Society and cycles. So there are some points where it's very high, when they're practicing and staying to the traditions and their culture, their base. And other times when they lose it, and become tribalistic and materialistic, it goes down. So we've gone literally gone, you know, in waves. And we're talking about the seventh century, that were rising up in the sixth, seventh century. And then, with a 100 years, Islam had reached to China, it was all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, far north and Russia, deep south in the Swahili coast. And so a great part of the known world, you know, was relating to Islam. But then

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there were waves of changes that came about. They were the conquests of the Crusaders, they were coming from Europe. They were the Mongols who swept across the Muslim world. And you have to remember now that this is we're talking about the 13th century. It is it is then when Baghdad was destroyed by the Mongols. Okay, so if you look at certain sections of the Muslim world, you'll see high points. Other points, you see low points. By the 16th century, this is where the Ottoman Empire had reached its peak. And it was in a key strategic position, being in Constantinople was Istanbul. And so it was affecting much of the world because of trade, because of their influence militarily.

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And that also because of the scholarship, they were, they were supporting, you know, Muslim scholars to a certain extent. So this is why that person from Mars, actually, you know, if he landed in Istanbul, he saw the size of those mustards and he saw the community,

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which at the time of Sultan Suleyman the magnificent, he had developed, the economists have developed a society where Christians, Jewish, Muslim, and other groups could live an injustice. So they had minority groups, people around the world were relating, but at the same time, if that Martian had landed in Spain, in Granada, at that time, the Muslims had been destroyed by the Catholics. You know, the 16th century century was 1492, when Abu Abdullah signed over Granada, to the to the Catholic, King and Queen. So Muslims were gone in Europe after being there for 781 years. But if you look at the world in general, Muslims were in a very high position. So I mean, it's

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actually interesting that you have tied this down to the talk of it. And

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when you say when Pete when, and, and I'm just, I'm just trying to be devil's advocate here. I guess. We talk when we say when Muslims are attached to the religion, they're high up, and when they're not, they're down. But I mean, the other side of this argument is the fact that the West is not very religious. Right. And now they're doing well, they're doing much Well, when we talk about them from a materialistic world, in a sense, yeah. Well, you know,

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when the Syrians first encountered the crusades, and it was the Turks, and the Syrians were really right at the place where the Crusaders were coming in, and they described them, you know, as animals with good fighting spirit. In other words, they have no culture. They were like the series describing a series of describing the European Crusaders, right. They had lost the Roman culture. They were wild, but they had an

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Good fighting spirit. And the real loss for Islam for the Muslim world came from within. Is that arrogance? Because they underestimated you know, the Europeans? And because they were so busy fighting, fighting and squabbling amongst themselves. I'm sorry, I'm just gonna say, so to say under estimating the Europeans.

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Actually, Europeans are much better option is really yeah. Yeah. So So the problem for the Muslims was that they, they underestimated the Crusades. Now, I just want to jump into what we consider as the relationship between tradition and modernity, in religion, period, and Islam specifically.

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First of all, are these even contradicting ideas being traditional and modern at the same time? Well, basically, if we can go back to the beginning, you know, and look at how you know, Islam developed. And the fact that the Prophet Sallam told his companions to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, you know, that it was, you know, compulsory on all Muslim, so, looking for knowledge, you know, and traveling and assimilating it was part of the Islamic identity. So in the golden age of Islam, Muslims were the most modern people in the sense that they were taking cutting edge ideas and theories, putting them into practice, and using them in their society. So that's the

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essence of this modernity, it's a way of like,

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taking your society from one level to another level, to a higher level. And so when the Islamic Society was, you know, dynamic, and this is, you know, going up to the year 1000 1100 1200, especially if we use for instance, Al Andalus, Spain and Portugal as an example, because that's in Europe. Yeah. So the Muslims are now leading the world around the year 1000. The city of Cordoba, it, you know, it has lighted streets running water, universities, public baths, it took Paris and London 500 years to reach that level after that. Yeah, so they were the most modern people. Now, once when the Muslims again became divided, materialistic, went away from their traditions, meaning

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their Quran and Sunnah, their consensus, their age, or their Islamic outlook, when they left that authority was taken away from them. And they became subjugated. So living in subjugation, whether it is in Spain under the Inquisition, or whether it is later on in what they call the colonial period, and this is coming in from the 18th 19th century, you know, in much of the Muslim world were colonized. So therefore, the knowledge in the universities is no longer dynamic, because it's not connected with the economy. Yeah, it's not connected with the political structure. So when the political structure is dynamic, you know, and funds, the universities and Aloma, you know, and when

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the technology is in sync, you know, with Islamic lifestyle, then Muslims be dynamic. But when it's out of sync, and this is what happened, the colonial period came. And so it was a type of European secularism, because the Europeans were rebelling against the church. And as we know, from back in the 15th century, in what they call the Dark Ages, if you did scientific experiments, you could actually be killed.

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So when they had their Renaissance, around the 15th 16th century, and they were reborn,

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this is where this new thinking comes in the Enlightenment like, yeah, so this is the Enlightenment, and their enlightenment, because of the negative response to the church. It was, it was anti religion. It was religious. I mean, so this is interesting. There's, there's the idea of enlightenment have to be anti religion, and No, it doesn't. But I'm saying in the European model, and how it is used, how we're taught from a Eurocentric perspective, we're taught that enlightenment, you know, was going away from the dogmatic teachings of the church. Whereas when Muslims were dynamic, and what is built into Islamic thought, is that there's no difference between

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the sacred and the secular in terms of knowledge. So enlightenment for us, you know, is modernization in a sense that, you know, we are becoming very modern, and we're using higher technology, but we're not leaving the principles of Islam. So this is this is a difference. This is the difference between enlightenment that happened in Europe and enlightenment that happens in the Muslim world, but it doesn't always have as I guess, really into, I guess, really the principles of religions of who defines those. I mean, when we talk about that, because there is a lot of differences in who defines

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the principles of religion. Well, the the

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collars naturally walk called the automa. You know, they are the ones who study the religion in detail. But we have to recognize the fact again, that scholars who are not connected to the state scholars who are not funded and who are not dynamic can actually become an obstacle in the way of progress. And this is what happened in the colonial period where the scholars became stagnated because they were living under colonial rule. And they were literally hiding Islam and not dealing with science. Whereas an example of this kind of thing. The examples are the great Darla loom, the Islamic universities, even from Saudi Arabia, I'm not mentioned names, there are scholars who even

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said up in the 20th century, the Earth is flat, that even came up that came out of Muslim scholars mouth, whereas what was received for this, whereas? Well, the justification, I guess, is that if you look at the, you know, the sky is above the earth is below, you know, so therefore, that's a flat plane, you know, in a sense, whereas Al idrisi, you know, he did a globe, you know, for Roger, the first and Sicily in the 11th century, he literally made a globe for him, said he was one of the leading Islamic historians, geographers and scholars, so Muslims knew that that that the Earth was spherical, right? But I'm saying, when we're not in touch with

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scientific knowledge, when we separate the sacred from the secular,

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then we have a problem. When you go back again, to the golden age of Islam, you see, even rushed, you know, for instance, who is a scholar in a diet in which dead? You know, he doesn't great book and comparative. At the same time, he's dealing with philosophy, he's dealing with science, he's dealing with other things at the same time overall scholarship, I guess, really, what you're talking about is is really kind of like a not just scholarship with a specific kind of, I guess, really a body of knowledge, but it's just his color all around it. That's right. So the curriculum of the Islamic Institute's has to go back to that original concept, where the the sacred and the secular

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are considered all from Allah subhanaw taala. It is not a narrow curriculum. What happened in the colonial period, is that if you wanted to get your secular scientific studies, you would go to a an English school or a French school or that school, if you wanted your religious studies, you would go to the Islamic seminary. Okay, so what happened in the seminary is that they were really strong on quoting traditions. But it was irrelevant, because they were talking about 1000 years ago. Right. So now we are what has to develop now. And what is going on? Is that you'll see more scientists in the Muslim world, educated people in a secular sense, who are now becoming religious. And you will see

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it's coming back now. We the marriage between the sacred and the secular, you know, and once that happens, you know, then that dynamism can return. But there needs to be that what you could call holistic approach to knowledge. So, okay, so this is an interesting way to talk about this yet. But I guess really, the question that I want to maybe kind of move on to is,

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why have we become this way? I mean, I don't want to always I know, you've answered this before. And you've said, you know, when we move away from Allah subhanho wa Taala. But there's got to be some sort of actual physical reasons that have Well, I've called him and a lot of people have pointed to colonialism, a lot of people have pointed to, but it is sufficient for us to just say that it's just the Western world colonized the Muslims, and they've caused all this backwardness. No, I wouldn't say so. I would say that the greatest cause of our decline came from ourselves. And the prophets are seldom said in the liquidly oma fitna, within the toma de Amal, every nation has a trial and test.

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The trial and test of this nation is wealth. And so when materialism came in, and people and Muslim leaders started fighting and squabbling over materials, and fighting over, you know, land space, and ego and power, and then tribalism comes in, and then treachery and infighting comes in, then the whole state becomes weak. And when the state becomes weak, then the opposing forces have an opportunity to attack because they're always they're always there. And so when they literally pounced on the Muslim world, in different waves of Crusaders, Mongols, colonial forces, they physically took apart the leadership. So they physically broke down the political institutions, they

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broke down the economic institutions, and they they put in the interest system.

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There's a discussion about the Ottoman Empire, you know, and one scholar is saying

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You know, for the first few 100 years, you know, the the world, you know, the Muslim world and the world was ruled by religious type people, you know, then, you know it changed. And now what is happening is bankers is bankers who are ruling the world. And so literally when that new economic system came in, and we will litter we were conquered, we couldn't bring alternatives. And so the whole political and economic system then caved in. And so the expressions that would come out of the scholars at that point, would be very weak expressions, because they're not representing a holistic society. They're only representing a so called religious side of things, which, if it's not

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connected with the changes in society, can become outdated and backward. And that is the reason why people will look at some Muslim scholars and say, your backward, you 1000 years old, because maybe that person really is reading the commentaries of scholars who lived 1000 years old, and depending upon that commentary, to interpret what's happening today. Whereas what they should do is, is that, you know, look at the commentary in the time period, it was made, go back to the sources of Islam, take that he had that type of Islamic reasoning and apply it to today. But it did not require some sort of training that it does actually even happen to me to, to kind of provide that kind of

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relevancy. I mean, you you studied in the Middle East, and you've also in the West, Ma, and I guess, really the question that I always, I get worried about asking, because I don't want to be labeled as anything. But

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is that training actually happening? I mean, the real Islamic scholarship, we always say it comes from the east, a lot of people always say, you know, we can debate that. But is that training happening there? Is there some sort of, you know, how do you how do you how do you how do you how do you make the material that's been written 1000 years ago? How do you make that relevant to today? And not just today in the East? Because you can do that sometimes. But to Muslims living in the West? Yeah. You know, it really is daunting. You know, when you think about

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the state of scholarship, yeah. I mean, I don't want to get you into asking questions. Yeah. It gets political. But yeah, but the thing is, though, is that, you know, the universities are tied to the government's Yeah, literally. Yeah. And, and, and, you know, the universities have been squashed.

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So literally, the universities do not prepare you to make HD How did this not prepare you to that, I mean, not only prepares you to, like, imitate? Yeah. So if you if you look at some of the universities that are happening, so how you get into universities in the Middle East first, for instance, right? You get into universities based on your, the mark that you get in high school, right, right. But you get into Islamic universities at a much lower rate, you know what I mean, then when you go into medicine, or into, because you're expected to make less money as a scholar, anyways, you're supposed to, you know, you can be it Yeah, they have a PhD in Islamic studies on

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tomorrow from University of under under man, you know, I mean, but to just have like a medicine degree, it's expensive. And it takes, you know, it takes a lot of study and so on. So we will just kind of like this is the easy way out. And what ends up happening is that you end up getting, excuse what I say, but you get you get the really dumb people. That's what the students have. And then what what what do stupid people do, they just memorize and they just spit out whatever they memorize, right? They don't actually have any way of putting it. I mean, literally, in some countries, I don't want to use Syria, cuz Syria's in such a sad state. But literally, I was told they literally looked

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at the graduating class. And they said the top 5% you're going to medical school, whether you like blood or not. Exactly, yeah. And then by the way, engineers, right, accountants, lawyers, you know, and then the lowest 20% or 10%, you're the troublemakers going to make them you know, you should surely make them teachers, you go into, you know,

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shunya or you could become teachers, you become Imams, you become the memorizes of Quran, right? You become like the guys who run things, and sometimes the ones who is the official side, if read in the class, he studies you know, Quran.

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So this is a free graduates, the now he's your emo? Yeah, I guess you could answer the question is, you know, yeah, how do we prepare

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this the scholarship, in a sense to tie or to create some sort of relevancy between what's been what's been written 1000s of years ago, and a modern day state?

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What is happening now, if you look at the Middle East and Islamic countries,

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there is an evolution that is going on. during the colonial period. The curriculums were restricted, they were restricted to so called Religious Studies. So therefore, you know, there wasn't

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maintainence of the Quranic studies, that is not you know, the chain of narrators, the Hadith, so many of these studies of Tafseer Arabic language that was okay. But when it came to like fit, understanding, dynamism he had making decisions, applying your Islam to today, teaching giving Dawa, this path changed, and it became fossilized. So the curriculums in many of the Islamic institutions are fossilized curriculums. And what has to develop as a we need to go back to the the original model. And that is a holistic type of curriculum, where the student is studying Arabic language and studying Quran. And then the next period is math. He studies Hadith, and next period chemistry.

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And then, when you're finished, you not only learn what Tao is also the Dow, or the principles of dow, you actually, and that is to spread Islam and teach Islam, you actually get field training and how to do it,

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you don't only read about the qualities of an Imam, they actually show you how to be an email, they actually teach you how to give a proper hookah, which is which is training, what's happening now is that many of the students who come out of the Islamic universities, they have they memorize their notes, they're really good at memorizing and imitating. But when it comes to leadership, they have not been prepared for this. So therefore, there needs to be a type of Leadership Institute, right, you know, a type of higher level Institute where the best of those who go through the base studies are actually given now special training, so they can deal with the 21st century, they are taught it

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skills, they are there they are taught how to speak how to deal in modern society, you know, and then they combine the two. So so that level of the teaching actually is missing. And that originally was there, because when a person gave any jaza in the past, which is like the Haqqani wire, which has the right to teach on me, he doesn't do that until he lets that student teach the class.

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So in other words, is he wasn't just a good parent. No, he teaches the class. And he watches him. He criticizes him till he reaches the point where he said, Now you have the right to teach my class. What is happening now is that the students only have the right. They've memorized what the teacher taught. So what happens in many Islamic institutions is that you have the students of the real teachers who had never taught to teach, they were only taught to memorize. So So therefore, you get a stagnated fossilized curriculum, and the students come out, and they're not capable to handle the challenges of the 21st century. So how can this change be made? I mean, really, to be honest with

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you, now, if you think about it, you're talking about a change in not only the curriculum, but I guess really even in, in their approach of how these curricula curriculums offices, it's to be applied. But one has to remember that these universities are not really private universities, there are universities that are attached to bigger institutions, right.

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And I don't know, I mean, do you think because living in the West were capable of actually creating, you know, independent universities? Do you think that this kind of movement, I guess, really of, I don't wanna say revolutionize, I don't want to even say modernize, but I say revive Yeah, to revive reviving the Islamic Islam, Francis, can this happen from the west, it can happen from the west to a certain extent. But the reality is, the revival cannot really happen. Until there is a country until there is a land within the lands of Islam, that actually reflects this. Because, you know, the full revival of Islam requires a state, it does require institutions that are funded by the economy of

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the society. So when the economy of the society and this is where traditional Ministry of half the walk off, so that's where there's a cat and the trust of the society, you know, used to fund the institutions. So the scholars were then not tied to politics. You know, they were independent, they could criticize the politicians have a system of tenure. Right? So therefore, mean, you know, it was a, it was based upon a trust is a cat trust, which is part of, you know, the rights of the whole society. Yeah, that's a completely different concept. So in other words, that student, you know, is given a scholarship, you know, which came through

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the system of zakat. That is where Muslims gave their charity for Allah subhanaw taala

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So it was it was it was the right of the student to study Islam given by the Creator, it wasn't given by a political party or a benevolent King or government or a government, it was independent. So, once you have that the the political group and you have the Olimar scholars who are separate, and then you have, then you have also, you know, the people who are the O'Meara, you have civil society, that is also separate. And Muslims were the ones who brought civil society to Europe, by the way, you know, so when you have these different groups that struggle together, right, instead of against each other, you know, then you have that that dynamism. And really the West, what's

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happening out the West, I believe, some of the thinking,

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some of the seeds that can be planted in the lands of Islam, are coming from the west. But the actual tree that will grow, has to be in a land that is fertilized with Islam. And we are and we cannot impose Islam on the western countries. That's not why we're here. We are living, you know, you know, in a tolerant way, in these societies, we're not imposing Islam. But within the Islamic lens, it needs to evolve to the point where, you know, the dynamism of Islam can return. Do you think there's a conflict between being a Muslim and a Western at the same time? No, because the whole concept of Westerner in a sense, if you look at Europe coming out of its dark ages, you know,

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and this is, say, around the 15th century, right, Muslims were the ones first for 700 years, who kept the light of civilization going. We were the ones who had the universities in Cordoba, in Granada, and Toledo and Seville and Valencia, that literally taught the European scholars, so so it is the Muslims who started the Renaissance period, keeping the light of civilization going, then it was the European societies, who translated the works of the Muslims, and then added their own thinking, you know, and then they were had their Industrial Revolution, you know, they started traveling around the world, in any on their boats, and they colonize the world. So Western, in a

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sense, there is no Western no east. And it's very interesting, because

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there's a point in Spain, it's around the year 1000, or just before the year 1000, where the halifa observer Amanda nosler Dini law, you know, who was a great leader of Al Andalus, in Spain, and to the point where, because of the weakness of the other leaders in the Muslim world, he declared that he was a Khalifa. And that is the ultimate ruler of the of the Muslim world. And there were European leaders who were paying homage to him. So they would travel from Germany, from Switzerland, they would travel west, to the Khalifa. So the Muslims were the Westerners. And the Germans were the either the eastern US East and West. So they literally traveled from East West, to meet the Khalifa,

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because Baghdad and Tunisia with the fatimids, it was corrupted. So really, the basis of Western Islam came to a great extent for Muslims. So this whole idea of a Western, I mean, Western society didn't just come out of nowhere. It came out of the contributions made by people in civilizations for the past 5000 years. And Muslims just happened to be the ones you know, who had the light, you know, just before the Europeans got it. So therefore, if you went the year 1000, to the year Cordoba, you will find a Muslim, who is taking baths, who has soap, who has running water in his house, who has lighted streets, they have hospitals, they're educated, Christian, Muslim, Jew, study

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together, tolerant society, you can criticize the leadership, these are Western value values, what we call Western today, whereas many of them of the so called Western countries, if you went to Brittany, and you went to France and you went to Germany, you will find that it was very dark in societies, no running water, you know, no lighted streets, no public baths,

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no institutions of learning, or very few institutions of learning. So therefore, it was the Muslims who were the so called Westerners, if you mean enlightened people. We say, lash out appear will ever be. There's no Eastern there's no West really. Okay. It is who is enlightened, and dynamic and who is backward and Muslims have

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have the opportunity to come out of backwardness into enlightenment if they return to the original holistic approach to knowledge, Shahada This is a fascinating talk Mashallah now lots of you have less inshallah, I do want to come back again and talk to you inshallah about other topics, okay because I can look out for being with escape from the logo. So this is it for today, folks. We've spoken to Shahab Allah Hakeem quick Mr. Islam modernity. Next time we'll speak about Islam and democracy. If you have any questions to ask to the show. Please comment below and we will ask it the next time. We'll see you Until next time. See you have a good day.