Chapter Eleven: Genuineness and Efficacy of Ideas
A genuine idea is not always efficacious, nor is an efficacious idea necessarily genuine. These are two aspects the confusion of which may lead to erroneous judgments so prejudicial to the history of nations, especially when such confusion becomes, in the hands of the experts of ideological struggle, a means for violating the consciences. Genuineness is intrinsic, particular and independent of history. An idea comes to the world either true or false. If it is true, it will always preserve its truthfulness. In contrast, it may lose its efficacy in the course of its historical career even if it is true. The efficacy of an idea has a history beginning with its Archimedean moment when its original propelling force brings the world order into disruption or when it is believed to constitute the necessary base to stir up the order of that world.
As they come into being, ideas that make the history of the world are generally always efficacious, since they bring about storms as well as edifying something or wiping it out, or simply turning on one page in the history of mankind. However, not all such ideas are necessarily genuine. No matter how genuine or false an idea may be at the theological, logical, scientific and social levels, its history will not, however, depend on its intrinsic characteristics. It will rather depend on its dynamism and power within the context of a given cultural universe as well as on the prevailing circumstances.
For example, though discovered in the twelfth century of the Christian era by the Arab-Muslim physician Ibn al-Nafis, it took another four centuries before the notion of the bloodstream could start its scientific career with the English physician William Harvey. The circumstances of the time had compelled it to expatriation so as to seek better chances of its implementation. In short, it had remained true throughout four centuries without, however, being efficacious. This is only natural since many scientific ideas meet with their Archimedean moment only a long time after their coming to light. Similarly, the theory of the expansion of the universe formulated by the Belgian mathematician G. H. Lemaitre had to wait for Albert Einstein to start its scientific career. Mendel's theory of genetics also could find its Archimedean moment, that is to say its efficacy, only with the founding of the French and American schools of biology at the beginning of the twentieth century.
On the other hand, history swarms with false ideas whose efficacy has, however, been terribly far-reaching in a variety of domains. To enter history, such false ideas have been often veiled, that is compelled to wear masks of originality just like a burglar entering a house with a false key. Being not only a mathematician of genius, Leibniz, who had certainly read Machiavelli, thus recommended in his political reflections, to “hide the profane and the useful under the pretense of the sacred ...”
Because it is efficacious under certain circumstances, an idea may sometimes acquire a sacred character in the eyes of the people at a given time. Nineteenth-century Europe had thus confided its destiny to three words: science, progress and civilization. It was these sacred ideas that allowed Europe to both lay down the foundations for the twentieth-century civilization internally and establish its domination over the world internationally.
Until the First World War, no 'heresy' could have a chance nor could any protest be possible in opposition to such established notions, for they were efficacious ideas! Whether they were true or false did not matter, since everyone had only to submit to their laws, the laws of the most efficacious, of the strongest. And today, what is the situation after two world wars?
Nobody can deny the power of these ideas in the world of objects. But, everyone, especially in Europe, questions their sacred character, even after the instant full of the thrilling and exciting moment experienced by mankind during the first landing on the moon of the American astronauts. But, it is not a question of giving oneself away were it absolutely necessary to call into question the sacred aspect of an idea, no matter how genuine or false it may be. Although the French physicist Henri Bouasse did not admit the validity of Einstein's theory of relativity until he breathed his last, his stand did not undermine his worth in the eyes of the French scientific community. Yet, one would become ridiculous just the moment one started denying the efficacy of an efficient idea be it true or false!
At the beginning of the Quranic era and even at the very apogee of Muslim civilization, one could, in bad faith or unintentionally, deny the authenticity of the Islamic idea. Even its adherents were not able to agree, after the age of the Prophet Muhammad, on its doctrinal arrangement and understanding. Thus, Sunnites, Shi'ites and Kharijites emerged... But, the imperative character of the Islamic idea was being consolidated and increased by its temporal successes and achievements, that is to say, by its efficacy which was to determine the outstanding pragmatic logic already used by the envoys of 'Umar b. al-Khattab to Rustum, commander of the Persian army, on the eve of the battle of al-Qadisiyyah.
Whilst the brilliant victories, which laid down the foundations for the political power of the Islamic commonwealth, were promoting such logic of efficacy, they were at the same time increasingly embedding the notion of the authenticity of the Islamic truth in the consciousness of the Muslim community. So much so that when the Islamic civilization was, during al-Ma'mun's time, showering the world with its lights streaming from Baghdad and Cordova, one could still admit or reject the authenticity of the Islamic truth - being as a matter of fact disputed by Christians and Sabaeans in the court and presence of the caliph himself. However, calling into question its efficacy would only drive one into ridicule and absurdity. The centuries then stretched over such a horizontal stage of history wherein a civilization, being no more capable of reaching new heights, would only slip far away along the slope of its decline.
Yet, even when Islamic civilization was at the twilight of its development, the Muslim genius was still making many magnificent achievements. The works of a certain al-Ghazali and an Ibn Rushd were the product of that stage. As the sun went down over Baghdad, a false dawn was rising in Samarkand with Tamerlane's epic. The truth of the Islamic idea is so powerful that it still could win over new followers and convert entire peoples, especially in Europe following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Its efficacy, however, went on diminishing throughout the post-Almohad era up to the moment the bell struck the hour of Western colonialism in the world.
The brutal encounter of the Muslim conscience with the new Western civilization occurred under the worst conditions. Europe gave primacy to the values of efficacy over those of truthfulness in its colonial order. From then onwards, its cultural universe has had two faces: one which is turned to her ego with its peculiar ethics and the other turned to the rest of the world with no concern except efficacy. Muslim elites formed in European universities see only one of these two faces. The other is hidden from them like the other face of the moon that is hidden from the earthly observers. This has resulted in a deplorable confusion of two distinct aspects of ideas: truthfulness and efficacy.
This confusion in the psychology of the present Muslim elite constitutes the maneuvers of the ideological struggle. The great masters who are in possession of the secrets and means of this struggle know perfectly well how to take advantage of such confusion by pitting against each other the truthfulness and efficacy of the Islamic idea before the eyes of our university youth. The average per capita income thus becomes the major argument of the logic of efficacy used to undermine the authenticity of the Islamic idea in the minds of young Muslim intellectuals. Such tricks are nowadays being thoroughly used even in studies done by young Arab intellectuals who are directly or remotely controlled by the "patrons" of European universities.
Nonetheless, we know only too well that the Muslim awareness in this regard does not date back to yesterday. Already in the last century, 'Abd Allah al-Nadim had noticed the sophistry of such efficacy logic used by European colonialists to introduce the inferiority complex into the Muslim conscience. "If you were similar to us, said he, you would have acted the way we do".
By putting this simple phrase in the mouth of Europe, 'Abd Allah al-Nadim did more than merely point out the tricks which consist of contrasting efficacy with originality "each time Europe", as he noted, "undertakes an enterprise inspired either by civil imperialism or by religious expansionism..." We must believe that the minds were much more lucid in the time of this revolutionary precursor who, carrying on his criticism could draw the following conclusion of which it is worth reminding the present generation. He said, "By acting in this manner, these people (Europeans) aim at keeping the Eastern man under the domination of the Western man out of need as well as maintaining the East as a competition ground for the Europeans... "
Though a whole century has elapsed, this judgment still preserves its topicality, especially as the ideological struggle of our time has been aggravated by the introduction of the twentieth-century advanced technology, and by the flaws an uncontrolled development has generated in our cultural universe throughout the present century. During the time of al-Nadim, the citadel was being attacked from outside, that is, invaders wanted to occupy it with their ideas in order to lay down the ideological foundation for their colonial authority. At present, the battle takes place inside the very walls of the citadel between those who want to defend it and those who are ready to surrender it to alien ideas.
There are so many Muslim intellectuals who are fascinated with modern things and, therefore, bewitched by the logic of efficacy without any discernment of the limits of its compatibility with the tasks of a society aspiring to realize its renaissance without losing its identity. These intellectuals actually confound the fact of "being open to all the winds of thought" with the act of surrendering, like a treacherous army, the citadel to the attackers. These inveterate imitators have no idea of the creativity of those whom they set out to emulate. They have no idea of the motivations of that creativity, nor of its price in all the domains in which they emulate them. Thus, they fail to be creative in their own right and according to their own motivations.
It should, but, be noted that it is not the efficacy of a dynamic society, such as Japan that serves for them as a model to imitate but rather a certain philosophical mold, which right away turns out to be anti-lslam logic. Hence, our emulators choose Marxism and especially Trotskyism to which they add a Maoist touch so as to please the gallery's visitors!
Anyway, their case imposes upon us an important lesson: the cultural universe of the Muslim world at present is not only a scene in which the conflict opposing the idea to both the idol and the object is unfolding, it is also the ring wherein the victory must be won in a duel imposing the logic of efficacy. Therefore, in order for the Islamic idea to stand up to the efficacious ideas of the twentieth century dynamic societies, it has to recover its original efficacy, that is to say, to resume its position among the ideas that make history.