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   Conferences / The Tenth General Conference :Islam and The 21st Century

Professor Dr. Safet Krkic
Dzemal Bijedic University
Mostar, Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The 21st century will bring further progress in information
technologies, as well as new comprehension and conquest of the
universe further research and discoveries in genetics and bio-
engineering. Where will the Islamic world be in all this? It is quite
difficult to give the right answer to this question. Islamic countries,
whose development is significantly lagging behind those of the west,
should first diminish the extent of their lag and only then to commit
themselves more significantly in modeling civilizational development.
In order to be able to accomplish anything in this regard, it is
necessary to find answers to two relevant questions! First, is the path
on which western civilization is advancing in its own development at
the human scale? Will this civilization not actually destroy our planet
completely, with its technology and lifestyle? If the development of
western civilization does not bring in question the survival of people
on planet earth the answer to the second question imposes itself. The
point indeed, is to find the reasons for the lag of countries of the
Islamic world and the possibilities for eliminating this lag as urgently
as possible.
The closing 20th century is characterized economically by a total
structuring of the industrial society, the entrance of the developed
world in a post- industrial era the advancement of information
technologies, as well as a gradual of the most developed countries in
an information-based post-industrial society. The twentieth century is
at the same time the century of enormous cultural, material and every
other kind of gap between the developed industrial world and
developing countries.
Judging from the current state of today's world and civilization
in general, we can safely assert that the century ahead of us could
bring further development, extension and completion of information
technologies increased research relevant to the discovery and
conquest of the universe, as well as intensification of research efforts
and new discoveries in the field of genetics, especially bio-engineering
cloning. I believe that bio-genetics will especially focus on finding
ways to increase food production one of the priorities in this context
being further research on the use and exploitation of equatorial desert
In creating a development strategy for economy and society in
the 21st century, science will take a dominant place. In this context, a
significant place will be taken by university teaching and research
centers bent on fundamental research in the field of pure and applied
sciences. Although the world has already accepted long ago the well-
known fact that on our planet (with Allah's Will) to each is equally-
bequested the ability to create and participate in the act of discovery,
the fact remains that rich and developed countries have reserved
themselves a special place in this process.
When we talk about economics as well as about science in the
21st century the question that remains is where will be and more
precisely what role and what place in that domain will belong to the
Islamic world. The position and role of countries of the Islamic world
in the modeling and development of economy and society will not and
cannot, depend on luck or whatever exceptional circumstance. It will
depend first and foremost on the will ability knowledge, work, and
talent, as well as the readiness of relevant structures of the Islamic
world to anticipate future movements in scientific, cultural, and
economic spheres, and to align society in those directions. In this
context, it is appropriate to recall the well-known Ayat of the Holy
Qur'an "For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession.
Before and behind him: they guard him by command of Allah. Verily
never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it
themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah willeth a
people's punishment, there can be no turning it back nor will they
find, besides Him, any to protect." (Ar-Rad II).
When it is question of science and its use in the development of
society however, we have to admit that Islamic countries significantly
lag behind the western civilizational order in this regard. No doubt,
this is the basic and most significant cause of the great lag of countries
of the Islamic countries.
A more significant participation and influence of the Islamic
world in modeling the development of the course civilization in the
21st century presupposes the elimination of existing development
differences. This means, in other words, the ability of the world to
apply the level of knowledge they have reached, and immediately
afterwards to begin new research activities. In this the need to adopt
newly acquired knowledge and to apply it wherever possible as long
as there are no conflicts with the basic principles of Islam, cannot be
The truth is, there are relatively many Muslim individuals who
are already involved, or will be so during the next century, in the most
significant and complicated research activities. Unfortunately, their
research work and opus will be limited to the framework of their
project duties, or more precisely to the system of the countries in
which they live and work, With this, we think first and foremost of
Muslim communities currently living in the most developed countries,
that is the United States, Great Britain, Canada,,,. etc. They will
realize their work and knowledge through projects of research
institutions of countries of the developed world, The results of
research activities of these Muslim scientists will be available to the
Muslim world only in so far as that world will have the ability to
acquire and apply new technological knowledge and discoveries,
What To Do?
The century we will soon meet should bring Islamic countries
significant change. The civilizational stage of the people and the
culture will surely be the place where numerous and various changes
of direction and position will take place. If we wish not only to repair
but also to maintain our position on the stage of world civilizational
happenings, the Islamic world and society should minimize the gap
through faster and faster keeping pace with developed countries of the
west. What has been said so far is anyways easier to state than to
realize. This is an axiom, that is to say, some general prescription
which we are always ready to state. The serious question is whether
we know who should take the obligation and responsibility for solving
these quite complicated problems of the Islamic world, What should
we really do to strongly support the accelerated development of the
Islamic community. Does the one who should take this obligation
possess enough knowledge to do so? Does he possess sufficient
strength power, and competence? Can he alone take this role, are
there enough relevant forces in society on which he can rely in this
task. If such forces do exist, do they truly wish and know how to do so.
Numerous other questions arise which should be answered first, in
order to secure the accelerated development of the Islamic world.
Another remaining question is whether the Islamic world should
generally change. If there is indeed such a need for change in the
Islamic world, the question is in which direction to move? Is the
civilization of the western world indeed the best, the sole, or at least
the most desirable model which Islamic countries should follow? The
answer to this and other similar questions will impose the need to
examine the basic characteristics of western society and its
acceptability for the Islamic world.
Western civilization as an ideal!
The answer to the question of whether society and civilization of
countries of the western world can be an ideal which all other
countries should adopt, among them Islamic countries, depends on
which goal needs to be attained, The question is one of philosophical
viewpoint and philosophical answer.
No doubt, each civilization and each society, like everything else,
have their good and bad sides. That is, among the basic characteristics
of western civilization, one can find numerous features which have a
universal, and with a general acceptable, value, as well as features
which are not so, nor can be under any circumstances.
From western civilization one can accept values which are
offered from the educational system, the approach to scientific and
research work, the ways of organizing work, exactitude and precision,
appreciation for one's time and respect for the others, the level of
health care and organization of a system of medical security, the ways
of organizing and modeling infrastructure, movements to protect the
environment, interdiction to jeopardize the rights of some one else,
From western civilization one could indeed accept all that we
know will lead to improvement of living conditions, development of
people and communities in general.
However, western civilization is also characterized by the
isolation and alienation of the individual, and this especially in place
with a high population density. As part of this, more and more cases
of people turning to alcohol and drugs (among which, a relatively
large proportion of young people). Western civilization has also lead
to the destruction of the ecological balance. Ecological balance has
been so destroyed by western civilization that we are faced with the
question of whether our planet will survive. Industrial development
on western civilization has also lead to uncontrolled exploitation of
non renewable resources (oil, coal, parts of the flora and the fauna,
etc,..) as well as consumption euphoria which more and more often
jeopardizes people and their survival on earth (enormous pollution on
earth, in the water, and in the air). Western society has also lead to
occurrences of high radiation, perforation of the ozone layer and
creation of ozone holes, occurrences of acid rain threatening to
destroy the earth's flora, the ubiquitous presence of pesticides in food,
etc... Ecological problems, which have accumulated as a direct result
of the quick development of western society, all the more threaten to
destroy life on earth. We haven't mentioned yet the weapons of mass
destruction built by highly industrialized western societies (atom and
hydrogen bomb, chemical and biological weapons) which, even partly
used, could destroy life on earth. What has preceded leads to the
question as to whether what constitutes western civilization could be a
valuable model which the Islamic world should follow and which
value it could blindly use.
We remain profoundly convinced that the answer to such a
question cannot be offered through polemics independently of the
level on which be conducted. Clearly, the question is not only one of
religion, as it is neither nor can be in the hands of science, and even
less in the hands of some individual, leader, or whichever other
In the search for answers to the question of whether the west and
its civilization can be a model for the development of the Islamic
world, it is necessary to include the possibility of importing those
values which would be considered more acceptable. In other words,
this means that following western civilization assumes first the
correction of some of its values. Only after basic correction of its
values can its application is recommended to the Islamic world
unfortunately, it is not always easy or always possible to always
extract only the positive values and reject negative ones. Often, values
come as a pack age with the following basic rule: take it or leave it.
In so far as the Islamic world accepts that the corrected western
civilization become the model for its further development, the
question arises on the possibility to quickly solve the problem of lag.
The solution to this question leads to yet another question: For what
reason have Muslim countries fallen so far back compared to western
countries surrounding the time and place when and where he has
traveled, one can guess on what the lag of the Islamic world with
respect to western civilization has been resting.
At last, in the works of professors of economics at the
International Islamic university of Malaysia, one can find certain
signs of the causes of the lag of the Islamic world. Unfortunately, none
of the works mentioned gives a satisfactory answer to the question of
the cause of the lag with respect to leading countries and western
One we will have known the causes of the lag of the Islamic
world, it will be possible to plan an adequate strategy, duties, and
tactics so that in a relatively short time, we leave this undesired state.
Unfortunately for the Islamic world, we still do not know the
real reasons for the loss of the, leading role of Islamic civilization,
which it had over many centuries, as well as the causes of the lag with
respect to western civilization. If this observation is accurate, the
conclusion will impose itself, It would be necessary to initiate research
projects such as the one which was initiated at the Massachusetts'
Institute of Technology (MIT) at the end of 1986, meant at addressing
the question as to whether America is falling behind. Are search
project such as the one conducted by experts at MIT, that is the
leading institution of higher learning in the world, will no doubt offer
answers to the question of why the Islamic world has lost its leading
civilizational role and has started falling behind others.
The research project which goal would be to find the causes of
the lag of Muslims and of the Islamic world would have to answer
many relevant questions. In this context, it would offer the answer to
how much responsibility and discipline of individuals, communities,
and society influences the development of society, and how Islamic
countries fare in that respect. There comes in the question of the role
and influence of knowledge, education, and understanding of
technical competence which are important in supporting development
and how Islamic countries fare in that respect. Neither the question of
the influence of religion on accelerated development should be
circumvented, nor that of the influence of the region of habitation, as
well as the natural wealth of the land, etc... Answers to this and other
similar questions could offer an adequate answer to why the Islamic
world has fallen behind others.
Malaysia and the BIH Experimentation
The foundational ideas of Islam have not faded away. The
question is what to do so that the Islamic world, in which about one
billion people have today, leaves its underdeveloped state as quickly as
possible. Knowledge and competence which various civilizations and
people have reached are not and cannot be their possession and
exclusive property. All which the Islamic world has discovered during
its golden age was generously made available to all of that day's
Ummah. From this follows that Muslims as well as other people have
the unconditional right to use all world knowledge and
accomplishments regardless of where it took place. The activity of the
relatively large number of Muslims present in societies of the
developed world attests to the fact that as.
The Reasons for the Lag of the Islamic World
Are countries of the Islamic world today capable of producing a
car for example such as a Mercedes, computer chips, or develop or at
least use space technology. In all what was mentioned, western
countries clearly dominate. If we exclude Malaysia, which performs
significantly in these domains remaining countries of the Islamic
world are still far behind from such possibilities. For what reason is
there such a lag between Islamic countries and western ones? The
answer to this question already preoccupies many a researcher as well
as ordinary people. The question arises as to how the Islamic world
which has lead civilizational development almost eight centuries
surprisingly halts and begins to fall back with respect to western
Had Islamic countries applied only those discoveries and that
knowledge which they had reached during their civilizational
development their position in the world would now be totally
The time and space, on which I live do not offer enough
possibilities to find out what other thinkers throughout the world, and
especially those from Islamic countries, think about this question.
Apart from this, I have no information on whether any significant
research activity has begun around this question. Is there on this
question any concrete and scientifically established result, The
literature which I have at my disposal where I live, that is Bosnia and
Herzegovina, shows that the answer to this question still remains in
the polemical domain. The truth is, the polemical exchange is between
authors who know Islamic countries relatively well. I refer more
specifically to the work of: Murad Hofman ("Islam as an
Alternative"), Emir Sekib Arslan ("Why Have Muslims Fallen
Behind and Others Progressed"), as well as author L.S.B ("Why Have
Muslims Fallen Behind", published in Takvim of the Rijaset of Bosnia
and Herzegovina, 1967). Next to this, there is the brilliant essay of
Muhammed Asad ("Road to Mecca") and works of a few brilliant
authors, professors of economics of the International Islamic
University of Malaysia (Abul Hasan M. Sadeqa, Aidit Ghazali, Sayyd
Tahir, Syed Omer Syed Agil, etc...).
In the works of the first three authors above, the reasons for the
lag of Islamic world are directly addressed. As basic reasons for this
lag, they first quote the Mongol and Christian destruction of
significant centers of Islamic civilization at the beginning of the
thirteenth century (Bagdad, Bukhara, Samarqande, Seville, Cordoba,
Granada, as well as other centers of Islamic power), as well as
theological dogmas in which the Islamic world has fallen. Although
these are the opinions of renowned and eminent authors of the
contemporary Islamic world, which can certainly not be lightly
neglected, we remain profoundly convinced that without serious and
systematic institutional research, it is not possible to give a convincing
answer to this question.
In the book "Road to Mecca", Muhammed Asad has not taken
as duty the analysis of the reasons of the lag of the Islamic world
However, from his description of events believers of a true religion;
they have the ability not only to apply but to develop knowledge as
In the most developed countries of the world, many Muslim
individuals are engaged in exceptionally complicated scientific
research projects. Clearly, this has not lead them to deny in any way
or lose their faith and beliefs, dignity nor have regular readings of the
Holy Qur'an and of the Hadith been jeopardized in any way. What
applies to Muslim individuals, applies equally to Muslim communities
and the Islamic world in its totality.
All that has been said has its practical confirmation and can be
recognized through the development of some countries in the Islamic
world first and fore most, Malaysia. It is question here of countries
which use many values of western civilization without losing anything
from what Islam offers. For Malaysia one could indeed say that it
does not lag behind any other Islamic country as far as the application
of Islamic philosophy is concerned although its development rests on
premises of the western world.
As a typical representative of countries of the Islamic world,
Malaysia can truly serve as an example of joining the Islamic soul and
the western civilization's development point of view. That country
deserves to act as an example of joining two civilizations not only for
the fact that is stands ahead of other Islamic countries in its
development, but also because due to its size, population, resources,
etc... it can be a valuable experiment. We are talking here of a country
with 19 million people, with a literacy rate of 80 percent (among the
highest in the Islamic world), with a GNP of 3.156 dollars per
inhabitant (33 per cent of the US), and the largest Islamic country
which development rests on industrial production. The structure of
Malaysia's production is agriculture 15.8%, industry 42.0%, services
It is question here of a country which owes its successful
development to a strong industrial base and services. This is in full
agreement with models of development of other developed countries
of the western world. The current level of development of Malaysia is
a dream to many Islamic countries.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a multi-national country in which
values of Islam dominate, can also be an example of the use of values
from both civilizations. This is a country which lies at the center of
Europe. With such a geo-strategic position, Bosnia and Herzegovina is
in a position to join the best values of both Islamic and western
civilizations. In truth, Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing today many
serious problems. First, it has to erase all that was imposed on it
during fifty years of socialist rule, in addition to heal the wounds
created by four years of war. Despite these problems, we remain
profoundly convinced that both these problems will be, in this
relatively small country, solved relatively quickly.
Using its position and its ability to join values of European, that
is western, society and the Islamic soul, Bosnia and Herzegovina could
soon move to wards accelerated development. As a European country
of Islamic orientation and soul, it could no doubt be an example, guide
and model of development for remaining countries of the Islamic

Arslan Emir, "Zasto su muslimanl nazadovali a drugi
Bucaille Maurice, "Biblija, Kur'an Nauka", l%7.
Hofmann Murad, "Islam kao Alternativa", 1993.
Montgomery Watt, "Uticaj Islama na evropu srdnjeg vijeka".
Naisbitt Joha, "Megatrendovi", 1982.
Nomani Farhad, Rahnema Ali, "Islamski ekonomski sistem",
Sadek M. Abulhasan, Ghasali Adit, "Irregled Islamske
ekonomske misli", 1992.
Toffler Alvin, "Treci talas", 1984.
L.S.B., "Zasto su muslimani zaostali", Takvim za 1967 god.
The Economist, "Pocket World in Figures", 1996.

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