Introduction

This is a tale of a person who travelled in different parts of the world, in the East and West. I grew up under communism, where equality took priority over freedom. I was educated in the West, where freedom is valued more than equality. I found employment in Malaysia, where I encountered faith. This is a tale of travels, discovery and enlightenment.

These three ways of existence resulted from diverse origins. The first two, socialism and capitalism are products of Europe, where revealed knowledge was marginalised by the Enlightenment, when reason challenged revelation. Spirituality had to take a back seat, so to speak.

The triumph of reason at the expense of revelation in Europe was in part the outcome of problems within established faith. The Reformation highlighted those problems, but also added a few of its own. It comes down to the question of the way we approach revealed knowledge.

It has been stated by Leo Strauss that the problems of the West are due to man’s loss of his sense of purpose. He referred to these problems as a “crisis.” No doubt there is truth in this view. However, there is a deeper reason.

This is man’s alienation from God, accompanied by an excessive reliance upon reason, at the expense of alternative forms of cognition, primarily intuition. In different words, alienation or estrangement is the problem, but not alienation from the factors of production. That is a very materialistic perspective.

Asia, by contrast, remains “traditional” in a few ways. Here, rich spirituality may be encountered among the people. We find a variety of traditional ways of existence in Asia.

Asia has traditional values. They present an alternative to Western values. In the West, due to efforts of writers such as Nietzsche, we had a “trans-valuation” of values, to use Nietzsche’s term.

Upon inspection, however, this trans-valuation emerges as hardly more than a reaction against “traditional values.” Nietzsche was the enfant terrible of Western philosophy. His work was a tantrum against everything traditional.

Instead of rejecting faith altogether, however, what is required is an examination of the misunderstanding of faith that transpired. Hegel was wiser as he tried – unlike Nietzsche – to ascertain the teaching of Jesus, free of “unwarranted accretions.”

In view of the critique by European philosophers of revelation, a return to traditional values is urgent. This also requires a rendition of the teaching of revelation that is free of various “unwarranted accretions” that tainted, if not eclipsed, the teaching of revelation.

The harm inflicted by Nietzsche’s thought on America has been highlighted by Allan Bloom, in his Closing of the American Mind. In the name of Enlightenment, the alternatives for man actually became narrower.

Thus, it is important to put up resistance to the corroding effects of European philosophy, which presents itself in the guise of a liberator but has in fact brought a “closing of the mind.”

That the West has become less attractive even to Western people is attested to by the fact that not a few people “drop out” from the West. They do this in various ways. They either go to work as expats, or they settle and start businesses in various parts of Asia.

I had an analogous experience. The nagging feeling that the knowledge I acquired was deficient was there all along. I just could not ascertain what the problem was.

After graduating, I worked as a teacher in a few private schools in Toronto. I taught Economics, Canadian Geography, Canadian History, Canadian Literature and English Literature at the matriculation level.

I also taught Science to grades seven and eight, and Mathematics to students in grade ten. After that, I went to teach in Malaysia. I thought that after Malaysia, I would buy a fishing boat and sail it to Canada, preferably with a few trusted mates.

Well, I never got to cross the Pacific Ocean in a fishing boat. However, I did manage to traverse a gulf bigger than the Pacific Ocean. This is the gulf between different faiths in the world and a re-discovery – in Islam – of the spiritual heritage that was veiled by waves of worldviews such as materialism, egalitarianism, and fascism. These invariably worldviews present themselves as “universal.” However, an examination reveals that they are in fact highly questionable.

Author: Abdul Karim Abdullah

Writer and editor

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