how is Riyasat-i-Madina relevant to contemporary times? The needs and necessities of humanity have ceased to be the same. Concretely, after the industrial revolution, the whole world has qualitatively changed; behavioral patterns, thought patterns, all weltanschauung has undergone a huge change.
Before the Industrial Revolution, there had been the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. These reform movements overlapped. The bottom line is flip-flop which eliminated the space for a religious ideology to have practical efficacy.
The passing of a a priori (revealed or intuitive ideologies) to the seminality of sensory perception have challenged medieval thought and epistemic structures.
She seemed quite exasperated by Imran Khan’s recurring invocation to Riyasat-i-Madina. She also alluded to the tiny size of this state. It had been no bigger than a suburban settlement in a medium-sized city in Pakistan.
All of these questions had relevance with sharp criticism that can pop into any mind, especially the young ones. But let me briefly introduce the lady who is still in touch with me. I love conversing with her because she interrogates the mega-stories and she tries to bring new dimensions to ideas and thoughts, which have a certain acceptability. She did a tripos from the University of Cambridge, UK, getting first class with her thesis and was ranked as the best of all, writing on topics concerning South Asia. Now she works for an accounting firm in London. Her academic inclination makes her extremely uncomfortable in an otherwise coveted job. She is prodigiously learned; Reading books has been her passion since she was a child.
I come now to the answers that I provided. Some of them sounded plausibly acceptable, and a few, she thought, made no sense. But I’ll try to replicate these answers nonetheless for thoughtful young minds to ponder and come up with their own opinions.
I believe that despite the industrial revolution and all the reform movements that took place and affected great changes in people’s thinking, ideas and patterns of behavior, these developments actually reversed the process that ultimately resulted in the germination of ideas. Before, on the 17the Century, a a priori ideas have had a decisive impact on the material world.
After the Renaissance, the Reform and especially the Industrial Revolution, this process was turned upside down. The primacy of empiricism has come to reign on the roost. Sensory perception has become the main instrument for acquiring knowledge. Previously, a (cultivated) human being had to find a balance in the physical, intellectual, moral and aesthetic dimensions. A fine balance in these dimensions is absolutely vital for an enlightened and empathic person. If someone asks me to define the human, I will advance these three traits to be present in a human. In other worlds, a fine synthesis of tradition and modernity makes man perfect.
However, with the advent of the modern world, the physical aspect dominated others, thus creating a new man with endless material needs. Other (three) dimensions were also judged from the material point of view. Therefore, the modern world, being determined in large part by the modes of physicality and human instinct, which I believe have caused the degeneracy of what we mean by humanity.
Thus, the contemporary world is much more dangerous than the previous one. Empathy, compassion and justice (rule of law) are always considered prerequisites for any civilized society. These values are as much in practice in the modern world as they were in the pre-modern era.
Muslim historians claim that these values were practiced in the state of Medina. As for its size, well, how big was Athens, which is the place of inspiration for the western world? If we subtract the contributions attributed to Athens, the whole edifice of Western civilization would collapse. Today, all civilized (developed) nations are developed and civilized at the expense of poor (underdeveloped) neocolonial states and societies.
The metropolitan bourgeois, in cahoots with their native straw men, extract resources from the third world and transfer them to the first world. The fight against these exploiting countries must be relaunched by the reinvention of theory. Young thinkers should read Aijaz Ahmad and Jameson very carefully and draw new conclusions from their work.
These reform movements broke out in Europe and these are the results of the local situation(s). The revolt against the nobility and the clergy arose from their authoritarianism. The clergy did not allow any advancement in knowledge in various European countries. This created circumstances for these reform movements and the Age of Enlightenment. It was only through colonialism that the ideas from these developments were introduced, rather reinforced.
Local traditions were denounced as superstitions and examples of irrationality. The result was that the peoples of the colonized world no longer had a “tradition” to create their own knowledge system. When we talk about our tradition, keep in mind that religion is an important part of local tradition. It should be emphasized that the local tradition must be able to evolve. Stagnation kills him.
Finally, what is not emphasized enough is the intrinsic capacity of the Muslim tradition to take into account the needs of both the individual and the collective. It provides an overarching framework within which the rights and obligations of the individual as well as the collective (the state) have been determined. When the state transformed into an empire, the surrounding, predominantly Muslim (non-Arab) areas located at a distance from the center were allowed to practice their own customs and conventions.
That said, I do not insist on the fact that it was about some kind of utopia. All human societies, civilizations and states have their advantages and disadvantages. After listening to what I said, she said that a Muslim revival could only happen if Muslims were willing to invest in meaningful education and ensure peace and prosperity in their countries. These are statements, of course, with which I could hardly disagree.
The author is a professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts, National University Beaconhouse, Lahore