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For Centuries, the Muslim World Has Not Produced Many Great Intellectuals. What Might be the Reason for this? Is it Possible to Have an Intellectual Rebirth?

by Dr. Z. Saritoprak on . Posted in An Interview with Fethullah Gülen in The Muslim World

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It depends what is meant by intellectuals. The lack of intellectualism, which gives priority to reason against feelings and will and makes thought the source of creativity, is not a great loss for the Islamic world. There is no doubt that the Islamic world lacks intellectuals who are aware and knowledgeable about their own existence and able to interpret and understand the creation correctly. It is a great loss for the Islamic world to lack intellectuals who are aware of the time in which they live and ready to question it and able to voice with no hesitation what they know. It is unfortunate that the Islamic world lacks such enlightened intellectuals. Here, I have to explain some issues.

First, this standstill of development is not something unique to the Islamic world. There have been many nations throughout history whose yesterday was very bright, and whose today is dull. This is like the destiny of all nations; history repeats itself. Various civilizations and nations have such a destiny; similar to a flaming fire that is extinguished, or resembling equipment that becomes dusty and obsolete, or a human who is born, grows old and then dies. One can try to renew them in order to extend their life, however this can be very costly.

Second, there are three fundamentals of the Islamic spirit. The abandonment of any one of these fundamentals to a certain extent will paralyze the other dynamics. These fundamentals can be summarized as follows: Firstly, interpreting the religious sciences that draw from the Qur'an and the Sunnah in accordance with the understanding of the century, as was the case in the early period of Islam or the era of Tadwin (recording tradition). Secondly, as we read the holy Qur'an, as derived from God's attribute of Kalam (speech), we should also read the book of the Universe and the divine laws found in nature, which come from God's attributes of Qudrah (power) and Iradah (will). Thirdly, we ought to keep a balance between matter and the immaterial, body and spirit, this world and the hereafter, and the physical and metaphysical. One should be equally open to each of these. In a world where reason is abandoned, the heart has been ignored, and the love for truth and longing for knowledge has been extinguished, it is not possible to even speak of elite or intellectual humans.

Third, similar to the modern day West, the Muslim world experienced a great period of enlightenment. There were positives of the period, but when vital dynamics were neglected, there were no doubt negatives as well. In some cases, plentiful material possessions caused the laziness of people, industrial systems skewed people's sense of reality, victories and successes drove the people's passions for life, and extreme frivolity led to a decadent lifestyle. In a context where such an oppressive atmosphere is dominant, the intellectual cannot emerge.

Fourth, today's positive sciences essentially and methodologically are not based merely on the search, experience, and analysis of Muslim scholars. Methodologically speaking, in our modern days sciences are based on positivism, naturalism, and rationalism in the Western sense. In the world of sciences, all research and analysis are under the control of a certain understanding. This will continue until new geniuses emerge to reinterpret the world or the creation and to analyze and re-establish it within the filter of their own thoughts.

The Muslim World, Special Issue, July 2005 - Vol. 95 Issue 3 Page 325-471