Having read God Arises, a powerful treatise on the proofs of God in the Universe, by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, I was anxious if somewhat nervous to read his new work, Islam: Creator of the Modern Age. While I looked forward to delving into another of this writer’s good books, my fear was that his latest work might not live up to my expectations. I realized my fears were baseless by the time I had reached the second or third page. Maulana’s scholarship again proves fascinating and his writing style infinitely readable.
The basic premise of Islam: Creator of the Modern Age is that without the advent of Prophet Muhammad (œ) and the final establishment of monotheism on the earth, none of what we take for granted in the modern world could possibly have developed. Quoting sources as diverse as Bertrand Russell and Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Maulana takes us on a trip through history and around the world. He deftly presents his facts until we reach the conclusion that without monotheism the concepts of experimentation and scientific enquiry, not to mention modern industrialization, would not exist.
Take for example the ancient Greeks. Their society was steeped in polytheism and superstition. Many natural phenomena were believed to be endowed with godly powers. It was impossible to scientifically investigate something so revered. Consequently, people worshipped nature rather than explore it.
We tend to think of ancient Greece as a free thinking democracy. In fact this is not entirely true; only the upper classes were allowed any latitude; free speech and free thought were actively discouraged to protect the hold of the man-made religions over the populace. The Greek rulers like many others throughout time have used the polytheistic beliefs of their subjects to shore up their own power, claiming divine ancestors and the "divine right of kings".
The Maulana moves forward to modern day India where he points out that the attribution of divinity to the non-divine or the concept of shirk has had far reaching consequences. Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, former director of the Indian Agricultural Institute, New Delhi, blames "protein hunger" or lack of animal protein in the Hindu diet for the prospect of intellectual dwarfing of the nation’s youngsters. Because people worship the cow, a food source, their children suffer from malnutrition while not necessarily going hungry.
In the chapter on Muslim contributions to science, the Maulana discusses areas as diverse as the solar system and historiography. In every case, the Islamic concept of the oneness of God, coupled with the teaching of man’s role as God’s viceregent on earth have enabled the Muslims to investigate and harness the earth’s resources for the betterment of mankind as a whole. Far from worshipping things found in the heavens and on earth, Muslims have been able to look into the unexplained and take advantage of the things the Creator has given us to improve our lives.
In this book, the Maulana has once more made science and philosophy infinitely understandable. He draws on a wealth of sources to make his arguments. He presents Islam as it should be, as a religion of logic and reason, dazzling in its perfection and simplicity. One comes away with the feeling the Islam might just be the best kept secret in the western world.