Sunday, November 30, 2008

Conflict of mind and spirit

"The mind of Europe" was a signifient term that emerged soon after the World War when T. S. Eliot defined it in an essay in 1919. By no means was he the creator of the actual concept, which can be traced back to the appearance of The Flowers of Evil by the French poet Charles Baudelaire in 1857.

It is interesting to note that Eliot's most significant contemporary in the Muslim world, Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, defined "the spirit of Muslim culture" in his landmark poem 'The Mysteries of Selflessness' (1918) and later in the fifth lecture of his famous prose work, the Reconstruction (1920/34).

Both the "mind of Europe" and "the spirit of Muslim culture" have cosmopolitan outlooks. While Iqbal proclaimed that the Spirit of Muslim Culture was eager to enlist non-Muslims for the common cause of actualizing the oneness of humankind, the "mind of Europe" also seemed bend upon taking non-European adherents.

Clashes cannot happen between civilizations as such because each conflict is accompanied with mutually beneficial transfer of knowledge and fusion of cultures - even the proverbial Crusades were not devoid of such intermingling. It is also less likely that the spirit of one civilization could be at odds with the other. Therefore, perhaps the root cause of the present tension is that the Western academia for at least a century and a half has been defining its culture in terms of collective mind (whose extensions are collective consciousness, collective subconscious, and so on) whereas Islam could not define its own culture except with reference to "spirit" (whose extensions are collective self, consensus of opinions, and so on).

There is no clash of civilizations but yes, there seems to be a conflict between the mind of Europe and the spirit of Muslim culture.


  1. The conflict between Mind of Europe and Spirit of Muslim Culture can also be termed as the Clash of Ignorance between the West(Europe) and Muslims. Both are ignorant of what other is? West dont know about Muslims, their culture, their Literature, their Religious values. Similarly few Muslims are simply not interested to know what is the actual mind of Europe? what they think? And some Muslims (especially our Youth) is just following them which can be termed as Being Modernize is Being Westernize. One important thing is that we Muslims are unable to teach the Europe that Who are WE? In my view, the first thhing we can do to resolve this conflict is to learn what are the best things of each others' culture and literature and then show the actual image of the spirit of Islam through our literature, Culture and Religious Values which Iqbal wanted.

  2. yes i agree that there could be no clash with in the civilizations rather there can be a clash between mind of europe and spirit of muslim cultures; here would like the highlight the resaon for this clash by using the idea of His Highness The Aga Khan which he has qouted in his speech that, the image of muslims in the eyes of West is not wht it actually is because in the western academia they are not taught what actually musliam culture and civilizations is, therefore there is a space for them to perceive what they want...

  3. IMHO, I won't categorize them in Europe and Muslim Culture, only because two or three literature personalities used it. It is more about the clash between the spirit and reason vs only reason. There are people like Blaise Pascal in west too. Ethnocentrism that there is only one nation or one culture better than others makes our views myopic. Moreover, this clash can only be resolved by understanding on both sides.

  4. Karim, Afroze and Raheel ('Dark Cold Coffee'), thanks. I've responded to the very thought-provoking comments by you in a separate post 'Need for a new paradigm'.