Monday, April 20, 2009

The end of the ancient world

I would like to share a comment which I have received on the previous post, ‘The Power of Chosen Poverty’:
“Is poverty here to be taken literally or something beyond itself…? Islam is not the religion of poverty at all. This is what has been preached for years and years as a true principle in Islam. That to be a true Muslim and an obedient and pious subject of God, one must not live for this world. I think this is exactly what has prevented the Muslim world from becoming the powerful entity that it was promised to be. To live in this world and be part of it is just as important as knowing that it is all transient and believing in the Hereafter… I do not think that Faqr here means poverty, nor Fana annihilation. On the contrary; I think Fana means integration, Faqr dissolution. I still believe that they should mean something spiritual, that to become the transcendent entity, which you call the collective ego, we would have to lose ourselves in something far greater, just like the birds, they were themselves and yet they were not. Like a drop of water which when it comes to the ocean, is dissolved only to become part of a greater whole. Faqr meaning poverty brings nothing but darkness.”

The exact translation of the Persian words faqr and fana might be controversial but apart from that I whole-heartedly agree with this comment and would request the readers to revisit the previous post in the light of this comment.

Now about fana – annihilation of the ancient world. With the advent of Islam, the ancient world came to an end in two phases:
  • 620-680 AD: Following the ‘Ascension’ of Prophet Muhammad (his well-known “nightly journey” which is interpreted by Iqbal as a unitary experience), Islam became a state which overran its opponents including many powerful kingdoms of the ancient world; when the democratic structure of the earlier Arab regimes was changed to monarchy, it was questioned by Imam Husain, the Prophet’s grandson, who got assassinated along with most of the male descendants of the Prophet at Kerbala.
  • 680-750 AD: Following the tragedy of Kerbala, the first monarchy of the Muslim world came to an end in 750 AD as a result of a ruthless uprising which claimed to avenge the blood of Husain.
Thus in the course of 130 years, we see a double ending: first the ancient world was overrun by Arab conquerors and then the ruling regime of those Arabs was itself extinguished from within.

What followed was a series of three Islamic revivals which shall be discussed in the next post – we are still living in the midst of the third of these revivals.

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