‘Tell me, O Shaykh, why is it that the faranjis always wear hats that shade their eyes? How can they see the sky?’
‘That is just what they do not want to see,’ replied the Shaykh, with a twinkle in my direction. ‘Perhaps they are afraid lest the sight of the heavens remind them of God; and they do not want to be reminded of God on weekdays…’
We all laugh, but the young beduin is persistent in his search for knowledge. “Then why is it that God is so bountiful toward them and gives them riches that He denies to the Faithful?’
‘Oh, that is simple, my son. They worship gold, and so their deity is in their pockets… But my friend here,’ – and he places his hand on my knee – ‘knows more about the faranjis than I do, for he comes from among them: God, glorified be His name, has led him out of that darkness and into the light.’
‘Is that so, O brother?’ asks the eager young beduin. ‘Is it true that thou hast been a faranji thyself?’ – and when I nod, he whispers, ‘Praise be unto God, praise be unto God, who guides aright whomsoever He wishes… Tell me, brother, why is it that the faranjis are so unmindful of God?’
‘That is a long story,’ I reply, ‘and cannot be explained in a few words. All that I can tell thee now is that the world of the faranjis has become the world of the Dajjal, the Glittering, the Deceptive One. Hast thou ever heard of our Holy Prophet’s prediction that in later times most of the world’s people would follow Dajjal, believing him to be God?’
And as he looks at me with a question in his eyes, I recount, to the visible approval of Shaykh Ibn Bulayhid, the prophecy about the appearance of that apocalyptic being, the Dajjal, who would be blind in one eye but endowed with mysterious powers conferred upon him by God. He would hear with his ears what is spoken in the farthest corners of the earth, and would see with his one eye things that are happening in infinite distances; he would fly around the earth in days, would make treasures of gold and silver appear from under ground, would cause rain to fall and plants to grow at his command, would kill and bring to life again: so that all whose faith is weak would believe him to be God Himself and would prostrate themselves before him in adoration. But those whose faith is strong would read what is written in letters of flame on his forehead: Denier of God – and thus they would know that he is but a deception to test man’s faith…
And while my beduin friend looks at me with wide-open eyes and murmurs, ‘I take refuge with God,’ I turn to Ibn Bulayhid:
‘Is not this parable, O Shaykh, a fitting description of modern technical civilization? It is “one-eyed”: that is, it looks upon only one side of life – material progress – and is unaware of its spiritual side. With the help of its mechanical marvels it enables man to see and hear far beyond his natural ability, and to cover endless distances at an inconceivable speed. Its scientific knowledge causes “rain to fall and plants to grow” and uncovers unsuspected treasures from beneath the ground. Its medicine brings life to those who seem to have been doomed to death, while its wars and scientific horrors destroy life. And its material advancement is so powerful and so glittering that the weak in faith are coming to believe that it is a godhead in its own right; but those who have remained conscious of their Creator clearly recognize that to worship the Dajjal means to deny God…
‘Thou art right, O Muhammad, thou art right!’ cries out Ibn Bulayhid, excitedly striking my knee. ‘It has never occurred to me to look upon the Dajjal prophecy in this light; but thou art right! Instead of realizing that man’s advancement and the progress of science is a bounty from our Lord, more and more people in their folly are beginning to think that it is an end in itself and fit to be worshipped.’
Yes, I think to myself, Western man has truly given himself up to the worship of the Dajjal. He has long ago lost all innocence, all inner integration with nature. Life has become a puzzle to him. He is sceptical, and therefore isolated from his brother and lonely within himself. In order not to perish in this loneliness, he must endeavour to dominate life by outward means. The fact of being alive can, by itself no longer give him inner security: he must always wrestle for it, with pain, from moment to new moment. Because he has lost all metaphysical orientation, and has decided to do without it, he must continuously invent for himself mechanical allies: and thus the furious desperate drive of his technique.
He invents everyday new machines and gives each of them something of his soul to make them fight for his existence. That they do indeed; but at the same time they create for him ever new needs, new dangers, new fears – and an unquenchable thirst for newer, yet artificial allies. His soul loses itself in the ever bolder, ever more fantastic, ever more powerful wheelwork of the creative machine: and the machine loses its true purpose – to be a protector and enricher of human life – and evolves into a deity in its own right, a devouring Moloch of steel.
The priests and preachers of this insatiable deity do not seem to be aware that the rapidity of modern technical progress is a result not only of positive growth of knowledge but also of spiritual despair, and that the grand material achievements in the light of which Western man proclaims his will to attain to mastery over nature are, in their innermost, of a defensive character: behind their shining façades lurks the fear of the Unknown.
Western civilization has not been able to strike a harmonious balance between man’s bodily and social needs and his spiritual cravings; it has abandoned its erstwhile religious ethics without being able to produce out of itself any other moral system, however theoretical, that would commend itself to reason. Despite all its advances in education, it has not been able to overcome man’s stupid readiness to fall pray to any slogan, however absurd, which clever demagogues think fit to invent. It has raised the technique of ‘organization’ to a fine art – and nevertheless the nations of the West daily demonstrate their utter inability to control the forces which their scientists have brought into being, and have now reached a stage where apparently unbounded scientific possibilities go hand in hand with world-wide chaos.
Lacking all truly religious orientation, the Westerner cannot morally benefit by the light of the knowledge which his – undoubtedly great – science is shedding. To him might be applied the words of the Koran:
Their parable is the parable of people who lit a fire: but hen it has shed its light around them, God took away their light and left them in darkness in which they cannot see – deaf, dumb, blind: and yet they do not turn back.
And yet, in the arrogance of their blindness, the people of the West are convinced that it is their civilization that will bring light and happiness to the world… they consider religion no more than soothing background music – allowed to accompany, but not to influence, ‘real’ life – they have begun to spread instead the materialistic gospel of the ‘Western way of life’: the belief that all human problems can be solved in factories, laboratories and on the desks of statisticians. And thus the dajjal has come into his own…
(Excerpt taken from Road to Makkah, an autobiography by Muhammad Asad previously known as Leopold Weiss, circa 1921 - 1936)
I’m always stating (quite emphatically) on both my blogs and in my day-to-day interaction with friends and family, how much I hate this world… and I’m always met with the same reaction: indifference, silent groans and eye-rolling or I’m thought to be pessimistic and fatalistic before enduring a lecture on “looking at the brighter side of life”.
But this is how it’s always been for me… ever since I was a toddler and held on to my first memories… there’s always been this inexplicable detestation and even on my very BEST days, when I absolutely LOVE my life, I STILL despise this world down to my very core with every fiber of my being. And no matter what I do to try and change my perception, I (increasingly) find it impossible to escape the hypocrisy, contradictions, atrocities and horrors of a world that is so constrictive and oppressive. So I do what most do to survive, I either keep myself busy with shallow, frivolous activities to take my mind off it or I dive into spirituality with a keen sense that there is definitely more to my existence than this despotic physical realm.
I’ve tried explaining it many times, and most people don’t get it and I don’t expect them to. But I’m often reminded of a few episodes of Angel in Season 4 when the Demonic Jasmine comes to earth, intent on ruling over it. And to the entire world’s eyes, she is breathtakingly beautiful and they become so hypnotized and enamoured with her that they immediately pledge their eternal devotion to her. Then through some mishap one of the characters, Winifred aka Fred, has an accident that allows her to see the Demon Jasmine as she really is and the sight leaves her so horrified that at first she cannot speak.
When she tries to tell the rest of her friends about Jasmine, they become so defensive and aggressive that they actually try to kill Fred and she runs away. Then figuring out how the hypnotic spell was broken, Fred manages to break the spell on her friends and they all eventually see Jasmine for who she really is. And Jasmine is my metaphor for this world… beautiful to most yes. But to me, this is all I see.