Regarding The Information Age and The Clash of Civilizations
As in the past, there are some conjectures being made about the future today as well. One of these is the claim regarding the future as an age of information. Those people who are discussing the future in this way are basically futurists. There are many who see the people who are making these kinds of conjectures as oracles of the second millennium. Yet, rather than being objective evaluations, some of the claims that are made related to the future in terms of historical cycles are efforts to develop ideas around some particular desires and therefore they carry no more value than any other predictions. In other words, I think that as a result of these claims, people form expectations in the same way that they expect an answer to a prayer. Thus, while saying that the expectation produced by these types of claims that “the future will be like this” gives birth to certain efforts in that direction, these expectations eventually become goals and purposes. Once the goal has been determined, different strategies and policies will be produced to reach that goal and efforts will be made to fulfill it. I think this is the crux of the matter.
Along with this, there has been an extension of the prophetic mission of God’s Messenger up until the modern day through the line of representatives, through people like Muhyiddin ibn al-’Arabi,1 Imam al-Ghazali, Imam Rabbani, Mawlana Khalid, and Bediüzzaman. We hope that the function of this fortunate line of transmission is to prepare a foundation for the rebirth of the prophetic spirit in the years to come, and, in this respect, we hope that this spirit will live again. Of course, the Prophet will not be there, but Islam, in the pure understanding of the Companions, will be ever-ready to greet life once again.
But apart from all this, as we live in a world where causality and certain other laws are operative, if we act without taking such laws into consideration we are in danger of falling into determinism. However, Muslims, by using their will, are able to consider the causes carefully enough so that someone looking from the outside would think that they are acting only according to laws of causality. On the other hand, regarding results obtained from actions, Muslims should be so completely submitted to and trusting in God’s will that someone looking from the outside would will think that they have completely rejected causes. Acting in this way shows that, on the one hand, causes are very important and everything humanity does should definitely be planned around them and put into effect accordingly. On the other hand, while so doing, due to their fear of falling into the error of speculating partners to God Almighty, they should also know that they have not personally achieved any success themselves, rather all success is directly from God.
After determining the matter in this way, we can summarize our thoughts regarding the future in the following way. In the future, everything will be within the orbit of knowledge, and the horizons that have been darkened by our neglect for a period will once more be enlightened. To a large extent, we have been particularly neglectful of the scientific knowledge obtained during the fourth and fifth century A.H. (after the Hegira) that is based on the Qur’an and we have turned our backs on the very important dynamics that could keep us on our feet. Personally, I have always been saddened that the madrassas got rid of Sufism, of what can be called Islam’s spiritual life. Later their decrease in interest in the experimental sciences and the eventual expulsion of the same contributed to our falling far behind the newly scientifically developing countries. So the neglect we showed in the past should be made up for, and our tomorrows will be built on knowledge, and everything will take its strength and power from knowledge.
Knowledge will occupy a very important place in a world that is rapidly becoming smaller and in an era when time and space are shrinking. The important point here is whether or not we will be ready for such a world.
Today, there are many scientists in the world, in many different countries, but, in my humble opinion, they are not enough to establish a new, happy world, even if they were to work all together. For this reason, there is a need for a new way of thinking today, a new approach to the sciences, a new life philosophy, and new educational institutions. New generations should be mobilized at every period of their lives, from kindergarten to high school and from there onto university. Since everything will obtain power from knowledge in the future, it will only be possible to build knowledge for the future with this kind of effort.
Regarding Huntington’s claim about the clash of civilizations, I think that rather than being realistic evaluations regarding the future, these types of claims seem to me to be determining new goals in an attempt to influence public opinion within the framework of these goals. Until the disintegration of the Soviet Block, there was the idea of a clash between the East and West, or between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries. This time, by creating new enemy fronts, a clash between civilizations based on religious and cultural differences is being prepared and a new foundation is being laid for the continuation of the rule of the power blocks.
Actually, up until now, conflict is something that is desired by certain power centers. The masses have been put on alarm against a frequently conjectured and feared enemy; this enemy is more imaginary than real. It is in this manner that the masses have been prepared for every kind of war.
In truth, no divine religion has ever been based on conflict, whether it be the religions represented by Moses and Jesus, or the religion represented by Muhammad, upon them be peace. On the contrary, these religions, especially Islam, are strictly against disorder, treachery, conflict, and oppression. Islam means peace, security, and well being. Thus, in a religion based on peace, security, and world harmony, war and conflict are negative aspects. In exceptional cases there is a right to self-defense, just like when the body tries to rid itself of germs that have attacked it, but this can be done only according to certain principles. Islam has always breathed peace and goodness. Islam considers war as an secondary event. Rules have been placed in order to balance and limit it. For example, Islam takes justice and world peace as a basis:
Let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. (Al-Ma’ida 5:8)
Islam developed a line of defense based on certain principles in order to protect the freedom of belief, life, property, the mind and one’s descendants, as has the modern legal system. Christianity, as a religion of abstract love, from the very beginning categorically condemned war and did not lay down any rules regarding this human and historical reality. But it was not able to prevent wars like the World Wars or the Hundred Years’ Wars or the Nagasaki and Hiroshima incidents from occurring. The views of Huntington and others like him of the future are unfortunately based on conflict, and reflect plans to continue domination through conflicts.
With the blessings and beneficence of God, we are going to do our best to help this breeze of tolerance and dialogue to continue blowing; it is a breeze that has only recently begun to blow and it shows a tendency toward spreading over the entire world. God willing, we will prove the predictions of such scholars to be false. We believe that these breezes are powerful enough to overwhelm lethal weapons, to subdue mechanized military units and much of any other negativity that may arise. The fact that every segment of society is expressing and enacting this brand new message, the roots of which lie in the past, in the message of the prophets, is a divine favor to today’s devotees of love. In this respect, we state that tolerance and dialogue should be represented in our country in the best possible way and should be an example to the whole world. Such an example will encourage people to come together, to gather round the same basic human values and, God willing, humankind will live one more spring before seeing the end of the world.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
1 Muhyiddin ibn al-’Arabi (1165-1240): A Sufi of great renown, he wrote al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah [Makkan Revelations], a twelve volume encyclopedia of Sufi beliefs and doctrines, which is considered to be a compendium of the esoteric sciences in Islam.