In 2010 the Egyptian-born German academic Hamed Abdel-Samad wrote a book called Der Untergang der islamischen Welt (The Fall of the Islamic World), in which he predicted the collapse of the Islamic world within 30 years. This groundbreaking book was written by a man of courage whose real intention was to improve the ranks of Islam and take us forward. As past experience has shown, publishing such a book is liable to cost Abdel-Samad his life, because the extremists among us, those still intent on murdering Salman Rushdie and who cannot bear the thought of pluralism, certainly will not stand for what they regard as more criticism of the prophet Muhammad (May peace and the blessing of Allah be upon him).
Abdel-Samad claims that Islam has not yet answered the fundamental questions of life, that it has passed its prime and that the Qur'an is relevant only for the seventh century, not the twenty-first. As an observant Muslim, I disagree with him. I believe that the Qur'an is eternally relevant, but I also believe that he has the right to criticize freely whatever he likes.
The Islamists' mistake is that they believe Allah and Muhammad (May peace and the blessing of Allah be upon him) are so weak, so vulnerable, they need Muslims to protect them, and to do it by killing anyone who breathes a word of criticism, even if it means killing other Muslims. They thus deny the absolute omnipotence of Allah and Muhammad (May peace and the blessing of Allah be upon him), neither of whom, as is well known, needs protection, nor to have mortals killed to defend them, nor to have people become shaheeds [martyrs] to assure themselves a place in Paradise.
Abdel-Samad's book describes the magnitude of the tragedy that will unfold for the Islamic world in the next 30 years. It describes the thundering collapse of the economies of the oil-producing countries the day after the wells run dry. Agricultural lands and green forests will turn into deserts, and sectarian strife, already chronic, will flare into full-scale battles.
The total decline of Islam, which began a thousand years ago, concluded Abdel-Samad, will result in mass emigration from the Arab-Muslim world to the West, especially Europe. That is because the Islamic tragedy, according to him, is based on conceptual backwardness, on a society whose economic and social thinking belong to the Stone Age, a society religiously and politically divided against itself. According to Abdel-Samad, Islam has brought mankind neither innovation nor creativity.
He bases his prediction on a number of factors, central to which is that the Islamic world does not have a creative economy, it has no significant social order and no constructive cognitive process, and therefore its collapse is inevitable. He notes that Islam knew better days: the Renaissance of the Middle Ages. Then, he says, Muslims opened themselves to the cultures around them and were released from their isolation. The Muslim scholars translated the writings of the Greeks, the Romans and the Christians, absorbed their wisdom and even brought it to the West -- but failed to bring it to Mecca, Al-Madinah or the Arabian Peninsula. The translations were not original Islamic works but rather reworkings of Cyrenaic and Assyrian translations, done by people who enjoyed – alas, for a short time – intellectual freedom under the aegis of Islamic rulers. While around the world various cultures were reaping the benefits of open, fertile dialogues with one another, Islamic culture froze, petrified and closed itself off to European culture, and now, absurdly, we accuse the Europeans of being infidels.
According to Abdel-Samad, our behavior is tragic: we gobble up everything the infidel West has to offer, whether scientific, technological or medical, without understanding that the train of modernism has passed us by and we have become an annoying burden for the Western world and all humanity in general.
Abdel-Samad paints for us, as Muslims, a pessimistic picture, and says that we will never be able to carry out reforms as long as it is forbidden to criticize the true significance and instructions of the Qur'an. This, he says is what prevents us from moving forward, paralyzes our cognitive processes and kills initiative. Muslims, he continues, sanctify ancient texts and force their thinking uselessly to stagnate. It is hard to disagree. Every Friday we see the dismal sheikhs in Europe and the United States repeating the ancient verses that tell us we are the best people Allah created, while the rest of the world is but riffraff whose very existence as non-Muslims is forbidden. Every Friday we see them huddling together, plotting in secret, hypocritically taking the money we contribute to charity and using it for destruction and terrorism. I am convinced, like Abdel-Samad and other liberal Islamic thinkers, that our nation is schizophrenic because of the great gap between the megalomanic illusions of its self image and our genuine, tragic situation.
It is hard not to agree with Abdel-Samad that our only hope as Muslims depends on whether or not we can come to terms with others, respect their cultural superiority and recognize the advantages of their scientific and technological creativity, which have enriched all mankind. And if we do, genuinely and without concern for our weaknesses, and if we understand the causes of our backwardness and failure, we may be able to cure ourselves. Until then our mistaken, well-intended people will continue to blow themselves up in our streets and kill our own innocent people, all in the name of Islam.