One of the signs that Muslims believe is a precursor to the of (Yawm al-Qīyāmah) is the disappearance of knowledge and the appearance of ignorance.
Other signs, as revealed by various Hadith, include the arrival of false prophets, repressive leaders, arrogance, and an increase in bloodshed. Look around you. Isn’t this what’s happening in some areas of the Middle East region?
These are places where individuals react mechanically to the fiery rhetoric of false prophets and their empty promises. And instead of following the deep wisdom in their hearts, they blindly follow such tricksters along a self-destructive road to poverty, conflict and economic isolation.
These are places where tin-pot leaders puffed up with their own arrogance put their own pride before the wellbeing of their own people and ruthlessly manipulate neighbouring states to feed their own sense of power. Their own citizens are impoverished and unemployed and their country exists on an omnipresent knife-edge of war, yet all they care about is holding on to their own lofty positions.
Humanity is supposed to have evolved but each time that we witness such repression, ignorance and the inevitable blood-soaked streets that such societies produce, we move one step to .
When are we going to wake up and realise that the future of our nations, our children and our grandchildren rests in our own hands? As the saying goes, ‘We get the governments we deserve’.
Today, this region is at a major crossroads and everyone who shares this space must make a life changing decision. There is no time to waste. Will we take the path that leads forward to peace and prosperity; the path of knowledge?
Or are we prepared to hang on the coattails of those who would transport back to a time of savagery and darkness that existed before the great civilizations that were founded here – Levantine, Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Canaanite, Egyptian and Islamic.
Our forefathers were right to be proud. Damascus and Baghdad were once world centres of medicine and astronomy. We can claim brilliant doctors, scientists, physicists and mathematicians such as Ibn Sina, Ibn Al-Haytham, Jabir Ibn-Hayyan and Al-Kindi. The list of celebrated Arab explorers, navigators, cartographers, philosophers, calligraphers, poets and inventors is endless.
During our sojourn in Andalusia we built breathtaking palaces and mosques that visitors are in awe of even today. Our universities spread knowledge of engineering, architecture, geometry, biology, botany and philosophy throughout Europe.
Arab students in Andalusia were the first to wear the cap and gown worn by graduating students everywhere today. Thousands of Arabic words have been subsumed into the English language. Cairo’s Al-Azhar University is generally considered to be the world’s first.
Fast forward to 2002.This was the year a report written for the United Nations by Arab intellectuals and analysts on human development within this region was published: The Arab world lacks freedom and knowledge was its message. Research in advanced fields is almost non-existent and the number of books published each year is miniscule, it said.
When we reflect on our history and then take a look at where we stand today in comparison to not only the developed world but also the developing, it’s understandable that some of feel a deep-seated sense of regret. How did we reach this sorry state and how can we begin to change course are crucial questions that call out for answers.
Who could ever have imagined we would one day lag behind the highly populated India and China in terms of economy and human growth and be generally perceived as a dysfunctional part of the world? And worse, we’re not stagnating but regressing in some cases. It isn’t that we don’t possess inherent talents and skills. It’s rather we fail to reward them, driving our best and brightest to places where they are appreciated.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Over the decades I have witnessed the transformation of my country the United Arab Emirates from a scattering of fishing villages and desert oases into a modern united nation that successfully competes on the world stage in just about every field.
The UAE is built on a philosophy of openness, unity of purpose and hard work. It’s a place where everyone’s potential is nurtured and rewarded. Just recently we have appointed our first female judge. And we don’t have the time or inclination to create divisions where none exist even though we host almost every nationality on earth.
This doesn’t mean that every Middle East state should seek to emulate my own. Everyone has their own unique culture, traditions and aspirations. Instead, I’m using my pen to make this heartfelt call to all our brethren no matter what his or her creed.
Now is the time we must all leap onto a fast train destination – the 21st century, headed in the direction marked ’knowledge’. We cannot and must not let the greatest of evils - ignorance win the race for just as ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law it will afford no protection on the day we are finally judged.