By Zahid Jamil
The past hundred years have seen amazing transformation in human life. Never before, the humanity has progressed so much in quest of knowledge and technical advancement.
For previous two thousand years, the scientific progress was gradual but slow and human societies lived in similar manner largely utilising the basic resources of the earth. On political front, the kings ruled the countries. Dynasties ruled huge regions for hundreds of years. Islamic rule spanned from Middle East to all corners of Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. While there were other dynasties in other regions of the world, Muslim rule was much bigger in size and population. During only first thirty years after the passing away of the holy prophet, the warriors from the little dessert towns of Mecca and Madina could defeat armies of big neighbouring umpires such as Byzantine and Sassanid. These empires, including weakening Roman empire, had suffered a long period of instability and their population felt ambivalent and dissatisfied. They embraced their new rulers who were just and kind. They established just societies and provided exceptional opportunities to their subjects, both Muslims and non-Muslim.
The Islamic civilization, during first five hundred years, gave rise to many centers of culture and science and produced notable scientists, astronomers, mathematicians, doctors and philosophers. The great institutions of political and civil administration were initiated and established. Not only were great spiritual, moral and humanistic principles followed, they significantly invested in economic infrastructure, established educational institutions, enhanced knowledge at all levels and made great advancements in engineering, industry and technology. Great libraries and the Houses of Wisdom were established in Baghdad and other major cities around the Muslim world, attracting scholars from all corners of the globe.
The Muslim empires spanning one thousand years of the Umayyads, Abbasids, the Fatimids, the Mughals, the Safavids, and Ottomans were among the largest and most powerful in the world.
While historians tend to be critical of Muslim rulers during periods of instability particularly during second half of one thousand years, it is important that we admire the strengths, Islamic rule had given to world order of the time.
Let us now look at the modern era when people are made to believe that the progressive Western world has brought real relief and order to the world. However, the fact is that the past hundred years have seen times of extreme devastation and suffering. The two world wars among European nations and other major world powers during first thirty years of the past one hundred years saw deaths, totalling nearly 100 million, more than any other time in the history, in such a short span of time. The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 41 million: there were over 18 million deaths and 23 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history till then. Twenty years later, World War II fatality statistics far exceeded the World War I, with estimates of total deaths ranging from 50 million to more than 80 million. These wars were fought among the nations who became the world leaders, yet they continued with their deceitful behaviour in rest of the world.
Following the two world wars, the new world order emerged with major political ideologies emerging. The Western countries adopted capitalism model of economics and established democratic governments. They established great institutions of civil rights, justice and freedom. The other major world power Soviet Union established the Communist model, a system of social organization in which all property is owned by the state/community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs. It established a single-party socialist republic framework which was characterized by the superior role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the only party permitted by the Constitution.
Great international institutions were established. United Nation was established to take action on the issues confronting humanity such as political disturbances, conflicts among nations, peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food production, and more. It also provided a forum for its members to express their views in the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and other bodies and committees. By enabling dialogue between its members, and by hosting negotiations, the Organization became a mechanism for governments to find areas of agreement and solve problems together.
Other prominent organisations such as The World Bank, The World Health Organisation, The World Trade Organization were established to effectively work to offer relief to the world population. However, the control of Western powers was such on these international bodies that their role as independent, neutral bodies became questionable.
The great British empire who ruled much of the world for the previous two hundred years lost their control and had to leave the territories they had controlled. However, as they left these regions, they defined the boundaries of the new nations. At times, they handed over the power to certain tribal leaders, declaring them the kings of newly formed nations. They created divisions among populations on religious, ethnicity, language grounds and divided the regions into countries, leaving behind issues of confrontations amongst them.
While within their national boundaries, Western nations developed successful modern institutions thus offering great opportunities to their own population, they did just the opposite in other parts of the world. They constantly meddled in political systems of the countries, supporting political groups who promised them allegiance despite them being disloyal to their own population. Such political leaders were generally corrupt who did a big harm to their own countries.
The Western nations also monopolised the international institutions such as UN, World Bank etc, thus just voices became ineffective. They supported unjust behaviour of their friendly nations such as Israel while they used false premises to punish nations who did not obey their orders.
During past forty years, Muslim lands were targeted in particular. The oil wealth in the Middle East and Zionist support for unjustly founded State of Israel, denial of freedom to Palestinian people, triggered major conflicts in the region, resulting in millions of deaths, large scale destruction and civil wars. Extreme injustices of Western nations led by US, failure of their governments to challenge the Western domination resulted in creation of many militant groups who expressed their anger through terrorism. The West dominated world media campaigned extensively against Muslims. Muslim communities throughout the world felt humiliated and isolated.
The rise of extreme right wing poses further threats to harmonious environment even in peaceful societies. Hindu extremism in India is creating tension among various communities.
Capitalism emerged as a winner, however that led to minority privilege and class rule based on the private ownership and a large working class who was exploited by rich. Capitalists also made profits from global warming, emptied earth of its resources, destroyed oceans, pumped ever more chemicals into the atmosphere. Every aspect of human life is controlled by capitalist forces and humans have becomes slaves to them without realising it.
In general, today’s world suffers from extreme disparity. While rapid scientific progress helped in developing modern societies in major parts of the world, a large number of people continued to live in utter poverty. The wealthiest 1 percent own more than half of the global wealth. 70.1 percent of the world holds only 3 percent of global wealth. Per capita GDP is more than 100 times more in the richest countries compared to the poorest countries. Third world countries suffered from extreme corruption, nepotism, internal disputes which resulted in utter poverty and suffering of large segments of their population.
In India, the top 1% share 73% of country’s wealth. The poorest in India live in utter poverty, only comparable to poorest African nations.
It is unfortunate that human being failed to bring peace, harmony and prosperity to the human societies, despite being able to use and exploit all the resources of the planet over past hundred years. Unless human intellect is used to develop principles of humanity and implement them in true sense, defeat the forces of hate and greed, all the scientific progress will be in vain for majority of the world population.
[Zahid Jamil is a commentator on Muslim issues, and is based in Sydney, Australia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]