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23 April 2011

US, West - The Rise and Fall of Civilisations


The rise and fall of civilisations is a historical phenomenon. Why does it happen? Are there some laws which govern this ascent and descent? Is there a fixed duration for the rise and fall of a civilisation or does it vary from civilisation to civilisation? Are historians capable of deciphering this phenomenon? These are the questions which worry historians and thinkers.

The modern discipline of archaeology excavated some of those civilisations which had disappeared, leaving no trace of their existence. This new knowledge brought them to light and reconstructed their lost history with the help of their artefacts. These enabled historians to analyse the phenomenon of the rise and fall of civilisations. Two historians of the modern period, Oswald Spengler and Toynbee were especially dedicated to this quest.

In the modern period, the dominant civilisation is that of the West which has already reached its height. Compared to other civilisations, it has contributed more to world civilisation. The question is that, is it also going to face the same fate as other great civilisations? Or is there any possibility to prevent its decline?
Spengler in his book Decline of the West predicts that western civilisation is on the decline and will ultimately face death. However, in his view, the concept of decline is quite different. According to him western civilisation reached its height in the 19th century when it created excellent music, literature, art, sculpture and architecture. To him, the zenith of western civilisation was during its feudal period when the princes patronised art and literature. The age produced such genius as Kant, Beethoven and Goethe. According to him, with the advent of democracy, art, literature, music and architecture became vulgarised. It began to produce cheap literature for the masses and pop music. Its architecture lost its beauty. 
To him this is a sign of decline.

Western civilisation is different in many respects to the ancient civilisations which were restricted to what we now call the Old World. Western civilisation is not confined to geographical boundaries and extends its sphere of influence to the New World including America, Australia and New Zealand. The human and natural resources of the New World have enriched it beyond measure. It also spread its influence through colonialism; though the colonial era has come to an end yet, it left an influence of its culture in its former colonies where it is surviving along with the local cultures.

Another advantage to western civilisation is that now it possesses knowledge of the past through archaeological discoveries. This knowledge provides information about the rise and fall of the past civilisations. Equipped with this knowledge, it is possible to learn lessons and check the process of decline and take guidance on how to prevent the decay of institutions.

Another significant aspect of western civilisation is that it set up research institutions and established universities which are not only preserving knowledge of the past but also producing and creating new concepts relating to their needs. Their intellectuals and scientists are continuously responding to new challenges and finding solutions to problems.

As western countries have the best research facilities, the best talents from Asian and African countries are migrating there. Consequently, it is getting new and fresh blood from outside and their contribution to different aspects of knowledge is very significant. For example, the fiction writers of the Indian subcontinent are contributing literary work which is making English literature more fertile. This brain drain, while on one hand is enriching western civilisation, is, on the other hand, reducing the power of knowledge of Asian and African countries.

Knowledge grants an insight to western society; it helps them realise that they should change according to the needs of time. Therefore, they are restructuring and reshaping social, political, religious, and economic institutions and values.

Unification of Europe and strong links and reliance on America are some of the strategies being used to prevent the process of decline.

Perhaps, western civilisation might prolong its existence following Toynbee’s theory of challenge and response. However, one can detect signs of decline in its structure. It’s withdrawal of social securities, the growing gap between rich and poor, its involvement in international conflicts, its ambitions to retain its hegemony over Asian and African countries, growing trends of racism within its social structure, and failure of its economic policies; these factors may lead to a slow and gradual decline of the western civilisation.

PAST PRESENT: The rise and fall of civilisations: By Dr.Mubarak Ali, http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/24/past-present-the-rise-and-fall-of-civilisations.html

1 Response to " PAST PRESENT: The rise and fall of civilisations "
Khalid Pathan says: Western civilization is progressing through competition based on open merit system. As long as this process continues in western countries their progress and prosperity is ensured. Comparing this system with that in Muslim countries one finds no hope. Merit and open competition has no place in Muslim countries and the masses are made to believe in a utopia in the past. No doubt that the system of social welfare in western countries is under stress and the economic policies are not that successful but all such problems are openly discussed and the best brains come up with possible solutions based on research and facts.
Additional Information:
One Man- Cause of Rise of Great Islamic Civilisation:
Within few years after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his devout followers brought major parts of neighboring empires under their influence as far as up to southern France, through Spain, central Asia, India to the Atlantic Ocean. Islamic rule and political influence continued to expand, in the intervening centuries, far beyond the borders of the original Muslim conquests. Renowned scholar Michael Hart, in his famous book, placed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) at the top of the list of 100 most influential men in history of mankind. According to him, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) preached and promulgated one of the world’s great religion, and became an immensely effective political leader. Even fourteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive; there are around 1.5 Billion Muslims in the world. The majority of influential men of history had the advantage of getting born and raised in centers of civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations, while Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born and raised at Mecca, the most remote and isolated corner of the world. He single-handedly accomplished the great mission with almost no means and resources. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was also an ideal leader who lead from front and left the land marks for the Muslims in all secular and spiritual spheres. He is the legislator-jurist who defined ritual observance and Islamic law in the light of Qur’an i.e. Allah repeatedly ask the believers to offer prayers (salah), but how to offer the prayers? The jurists find in the traditions (Sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He is the ideal seeker of spiritual perfection for the mystics. Philosophers and statesman find a role model of both as conqueror of hearts and just ruler in him. The ordinary Muslims can find a model of reflection of God’s grace and salvation in him. He was an effective administrator, legislator, judge and military commander as well as teacher, preacher and prayer leader of the Muslim community. [ http://wp.me/PCgrB-mf ]

Alphonse de LaMartaine in ‘Historie de la Turquie,’ Paris, 1854: “Never has a man set for himself, voluntarily or involuntarily, a more sublime aim, since this aim was superhuman; to subvert superstitions which had been imposed between man and his Creator, to render God unto man and man unto God; to restore the rational and sacred idea of divinity amidst the chaos of the material and disfigured gods of idolatry, then existing. Never has a man undertaken a work so far beyond human power with so feeble means, for he (Muhammad) had in the conception as well as in the execution of such a great design, no other instrument than himself and no other aid except a handful of men living in a corner of the desert. Finally, never has a man accomplished such a huge and lasting revolution in the world, because in less than two centuries after its appearance, Islam, in faith and in arms, reigned over the whole of Arabia, and conquered, in God’s name, Persia Khorasan, Transoxania, Western India, Syria, Egypt, Abyssinia, all the known continent of Northern Africa, numerous islands of the Mediterranean Sea, Spain, and part of Gaul”.

If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws, and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples, dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls”. … “On the basis of a Book, every letter which has become law, he created a spiritual nationality which blend together peoples of every tongue and race. He has left the indelible characteristic of this Muslim nationality the hatred of false gods and the passion for the One and Immaterial God. This avenging patriotism against the profanation of Heaven formed the virtue of the followers of Muhammad; the conquest of one-third the earth to the dogma was his miracle; or rather it was not the miracle of man but that of reason”. [http://wp.me/PCgrB-u7 ]

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