Islam & Globalization
* Translated material
Should it be deemed proper to leave behind the differences over its definition, the globalization may be generally visualized as a process/outcome of reducing or lessening and – as far as possible- eliminating or removing the boundaries & restrictions, be they natural (time & space distances & hindrances) or man- made (restrictive laws, systems & concepts), towards achieving more freely & speedy move, action, communication & interaction at the global level. Based on such a broad concept of globalization, one may argue that since the dawn of the history the mankind has been working along a way that leads- perhaps definitely – to globalization. The journey of the mankind towards shortening or lessening the natural distances began as early as the time in which he started to discover or invent & use the means of transportation starting with the riding animals & boats, to carrier pigeon, cars, aircrafts & electronic transmission & ending up, so far, with spaceships & superhighways. Likewise, the mankind journey towards lessening or reducing the man-made (social) restrictions in the various walks of life started at an early stage of human history. For instance, the gradual but continued broadening of the social/political units from the small ones of the family, tribe or feudality to the wider ones of the city-state, State, kingdom, empire &, recently, international & regional organizations some of which enjoy certain power over the state-members represents a progressive process towards the political globalization through broadening & – whenever possible- integrating the smaller units into wider ones. Similar developments towards globalization can be traced in other fields. In, for instance, religious field one can easily notice that at the beginning the religions, both the heavenly & non-heavenly ones, were prone to remain confined to smaller circles or groups of people such as the family, clannish or tribal circles. The tribal religions were gradually followed/replaced by the nation-wide religions which were followed later on by internationally oriented religions some of which foreshow & call for some kind of cosmopolitanism/internationalism. A couple of these internationally oriented religions have already achieved a worldwide spread.
The study of history shows that the globalization process was & is progressing smoothly, facing insignificant resistance, along its natural (scientific & technical) track or course. However, it many times had to resort to violent measures or use of force to overcome the objection & resistance it faced along its social track.
Thus, the historical approach of globalization confirms three basic facts:
- The globalization is not an invention or an exclusive product of the West or Western civilization. It is an outcome of contributions made by various human civilizations throughout the history. Even the recent acceleration in the globalization process, which coincides with this era of Western civilization, is not an effect of only the West or North countries. Other countries, not only the developed but also a number of the developing ones in the East & South, have participated considerably, at least by their abundant natural resources, know-how & emigrant scientists, in acceleration of the globalization process.
- As a process & as to its general structure or framework, the globalization seems to be a universal rule/feature that has been associated with the human history since its beginning & most probably it is an everlasting process which is not expected to cease to continue for whatever objection or resistance it may encounter.
- The societal (social, cultural, political, economic, spiritual…etc.) components which prevailed in various historical stages of the globalization, have varied with variation of the ideologies, value-systems & frames of references of the main leading forces/civilizations in the respective stages.
Islam’s viewpoint or stance, be it explanatory or normative (prescribing provisions), on any specific aspect, event or phenomenon of the existence is defined, in accordance with a number of religious origins or general rules including:
- Islam came, originally, to guide the people to the best way that help them rightly identify & properly achieve their real good & interests. Therefore, the decisive standard in determining Islam’s judgment on any matter of people’s affairs is the good or interest of the man. This fact has provided the basis for the Muslim jurists’ common assertion that wherever the good/interest (of the man) is; there is the precept or the judgment which Islam prescribes. Though the interest of the Muslim, as human being, is taken into consideration, the considered interest is not always or necessarily the same as the apparent or seeming interest which the Muslim or a group of Muslims may be wishing or hoping for.
- Absoluteness is an exclusive quality of God only. So, nothing else in this world can be absolutely good or absolutely evil/bad. The juristic characterization of any matter from Islamic perspective, therefore, is based on making a comparison/weighing between the cons &pros or the advantages & disadvantages of the subject matter &, mostly, the final conclusion or judgment remains associated to a number of conditions or secondary rulings that aim at maximizing the advantages & minimizing the disadvantages or- in the Muslim jurists common short wording- keeping away the bad & bringing in the good.
- The human mind, guided by the Islamic religious origins & juristic fundamentals & good knowledge of the subject matter, is the authority assigned to determine Islam’s possible viewpoint(s) or stance(s) on the matter on which there is no specific unambiguous revealed text of Qur’an or Sunnat. Such inferential stance/judgment usually remains uncertain, changeable &, in many cases, controversial.
- Islam categorically prohibits imposition on others of certain or one’s own discretionary judgments or understanding of Islam. It strongly discourages the blind adoption of others’ views or giving up one’s own views or understanding of Islam for no convincing reason or argument. Thus, Islam allows, or rather, legitimizes pluralism including religious, jurisprudential, cultural, opinionative & political pluralism.
In the light of the foregoing religious & juristic fundamentals as well as the historic approach, the following probably uncontested points may be easily evolved or concluded regarding Islam’s stance on the globalization-the main theme of this paper:
- There is no unambiguous specific revealed text, of Qur’an or Sunnat, on the judgment or characterization of globalization. The Muslim, just as the non-Muslim, writers hold different conclusions or viewpoints on globalization.
- Globalization involves or is accompanied by positive aspects i.e. benefits or potential benefits & negative aspects i.e. damage or possible damage. However, it will be incorrect to conclude such a generalization that globalization is the cause or only cause of all the accompanying positive or negative aspects.
- Neither the advantages nor the disadvantages of the globalization are confined to certain party(ies)/nation(s). All parties/nations share both the advantages and disadvantages; however, the shares of different parties/ nations are not always the same. The way the party/nation responds to & interacts with the on-going globalization process is a decisive factor in determining its actual share of the prospective advantage & disadvantages of the globalization.
- In such a situation, the stance of Islam usually tends not to absolutely permit or forbid, or order unconditional acceptance or categorical rejection, but to urge the people to cooperate in addressing the subject matter (here the globalization) in a manner that help minimize its disadvantages & maximize its advantages.
Evidently, the cooperation in such a matter like globalization requires holding of serious dialogue & discussions among the various civilizations & concerned international parties on equal footing. This, in turn, necessitates that the civilizational groups should rise above their disagreeable historic experiences &, in particular in case of the Islamic civilization group & Western civilization group, get rid of their exaggerated apprehensions & misgivings against each other.
There is every hope that a proper dialogue between the globalization movement & Islam as well as other religions & civilizations would help bring about a constructive integration advantageous to all mankind. In this regard, Islam is expected to contribute a lot to enrichment of the dialogue on the globalization in particular towards assessment of the potential need to redirect the current course of the globalization. Islam is a religion characterized by a strong inclination to the globalization which general structure may be similar to the general structure of the on-going Western-style dominated globalization. However, as regards the societal content, the Islam-inspired globalization promises more just, pluralistic, eco- harmonious & humane globalization based on a somehow different priority order of the ends, values, strategies, systems & means. Perhaps considering such differences, some are of opinion that the Islam- promoted globalization may preferably be identified by the term “Internationalism” or “Pluralistic universalism”.
In short, it may be concluded that from Islamic perspective &, perhaps, from any objective logic perspective as well, it is the way & how the people deal with & develop the globalization which make it either a good fortune or misfortune, prosperity or adversity & – in terms of some common religious aspirations & beliefs – the True Messiah (Awaited Mahdi) or false Messiah.