Those were, among other things, a handful of people with knowledge in their heads. Their knowledge included both what they knew about the world (or Nature) and what they knew about God. Having experienced firsthand both kinds of knowledge, Noah’s companions knew the worth of each.
Noah’s companions learned from their unprecedented experience that God was more interested in Deen than in Dunya. They learned that people were more important than their dwellings, mounts, money or anything else they might possess. Equally, people should care more about God than any of those possessions.
But the ark saved not only people, but also « two of every type of animal ». The people saved in the ark had the knowledge to deal with those things they carried along with them as well as the world as a whole. They had brought that knowledge -in their heads- from their old people, and then they passed it on to the next generations. In addition to that knowledge of the world, the Noah’s ark people left « a message » with those who came after them. The message said in essence that the world belonged to God and therefore Man should worship God.
Another human civilisation, by the name of ’Aad, emerged thereafter. New palaces, schools, roads, gardens, factories, etc, were built. Man’s knowledge of the world expanded. God reminded Man that all this was good if he did not forget Him. God said -through his Messenger- that He was not against such a prosperous civilisation if Man worshipped Him, because it’s Him who made this civilisation possible in the first place.
The ’Aad people did not care about what God said, nor did Thamood. Nor did God care about their « civilisations ». Only those who cared about God’s Word were saved so that they could pass on God’s message to the next generations.
That message reached Abraham. He told his people about it. But like ’Aad and Thamood, Abraham’s people were proud of their civilisation. Their king, Nemrod, compared himself with God. Abraham was far from impressed by the king and his kingdom. He knew that it was God who made kings and kingdoms. So he left his people altogether.
Abraham then went to a place far less prosperous than his home country. He went to Palestine in order to spread the knowledge which he believed was more worthwhile than Nemrod’s kingdom. His children followed his teachings. They too believed that knowledge of God was much better than knowledge of the world. As a result of that unshaken belief, one of Abraham’s grandchildren, Joseph, became king.
Unlike Nemrod, King Joseph did not measure his strength against God. He simply worshipped Him. And so did King David and King Solomon. They were all kings and good believers in God. They were proof that God was not against civilisation and prosperous kingdoms if Man worshipped Him.
The question is, why didn’t those « good » kingdoms last for ever ? Why were there « bad » kingdoms as well ? That’s a hard one to answer. But, interestingly, history gives us some clues.
Many of the things we use today were invented by different peoples in different places at different times. Bronze, for example, was invented by the Chineese, glass by people in Mesopotamia, paper by the Egyptians, alphabet by Phoenicians, and so on. Each people learned from the other peoples and made their own inventions, thus expanding Man’s knowledge of the world. This knowledge spread through trade and conquest. The conquerors inherited the knowledge of the vanquished people and took it home or spread it to other places. At the same time, the conquerors brought in their own way of life, their thoughts, their arts and their religion.
The interaction between so many powers, so many civilisations and so many ways of life made it necessary for each people to defend their own existence. Each people had to defend everything that was at stake for them. That included their culture. So those who happened to believe in God had to defend their own faith by using all the tools available, including those that had been invented or developed by non-believer nations. Such tools may have included Phoenicians’ alphabet and Greeks’ logic. Thus non-believer nations were not « redundant ». They were just as useful as believer nations in that they contributed to the spread of belief in God.
It is also interesting to notice that most of those early interactions between various contending nations took place just where Abraham was once : Palestine. The Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Hittites, the Greeks, the Romans, and many more in between- all had a foothold there at some point in history. And then came the Arabs. They came from another place to where Abraham was once : Mecca. Those Arabs found themselves thrusting in every direction, going towards nations who had known impressive empires, and ended up building their own empire stretching across most of the then known world.
There followed a magnificent world interaction. The Arabs borrowed old, dormant knowledge from the Greeks, the Persians and other nations, and updated and enriched it, and then spread it in every direction. Baghdad emerged as the world capital of knowledge. And in the West there was Cordoba, where Arab knowledge was passed on to Europe through translation. Averroes spoke to Muslims and non-Muslim Europeans of God using Aristotle’s logic.
Baghdad was destroyed, but Islamic knowledge survived. It survived because it was not only in the books that the Mongols threw into the Tigris River, but also in people’s hearts and minds. Like the destruction of the Alexandria Library in antiquity, the loss of Baghdad libraries could have been a much more awful tragedy had there not been what I called interactions. Marrakesh, which was built and made their capital by Morocco’s Almoravid dynasty, was deliberately and completely destroyed by their Almohad successors. These rebuilt the whole city in the most beautiful possible way, because they had already « received » the necessary knowledge from their predecessors. As long as knowledge is intact, it does not matter how beautiful or big a destroyed place was. It can always be rebuilt.
Even the rebuilding of a whole nation is possible if there is the necessary knowledge. Europe milked the Arabs of their knowledge and rebuilt itself in a matter of generations.
But the Arabs’ knowledge was « poisonous » somehow. Averroes’ lectures taught Europeans how to look at religion differently. This led to voices rising against the way the Church taught religion. The Church defended itself by persecuting people of knowledge such as Galileo.
The conflict between the Church and new scientists resulted in new thinking. Some clung to their religious beliefs, defending themselves by use of logic and philosophy. Others broke with the Church altogether and called their way « Secularism ». They defended themselves by experimenting with their knowledge of the world, excluding any reference to the Unknown.
The new knowledge of the world, based on experimentation, led to the Industrial Revolution. The boom in industry led to the spread of knowledge on a phenomenal scale. But this knowledge remained confined to where industry was thriving.
The Church was clever enough to make good use of that thriving industry. Wherever there was a new industrial site there was a large church. Moreover, church men paved the way for their respective industrial states to seize new lands on other continents. Both church men and those who were only interested in wealth agreed on a magic word : civilisation. That civilisation had to be spread through occupation.
Occupation made it possible for more people to go to more places. Africans « went » to America, taking with them their religions, including Islam. Other Muslims were taken into Europe, where they continued to practise their faith. Orientalists (from Europe) went to the Arab and Islamic world to « return » part of the Arabic and Islamic heritage to the newly awakening Arabs and Muslims.
Now that imported material is being exported with an added value. It is done through the Internet and satellite TV stations.
Islam has become the fastest growing religion in America, which invented the Internet and satellite TV. There are now American-born imams who know the Koran and the Haddith by heart and are authorized to issue fatwas. All the Islamic literature is now everywhere, thanks to the Internet. This was made possible by American technology and Arab oil money.
Arab oil money has contributed to the building of large mosques, big Islamic institutes and libraries, and to the printing of the Holy Koran and other religious books in large quantities in many languages in many parts of the world.
Even within the poorest Islamic states Islam is growing as fast as demography. Wherever you go, there is a new mosque and a new school (where people are introduced to God) because there is a new village, town or suburb. Small towns are swelling into big cities, and so small mosques and schools are becoming bigger and bigger. Therefore, the number of people who know (of) God is ever increasing.
Modern means of communication and transportation together with modern educational systems have made world interaction incredibly easier every day. More and more people are coming out of illiteracy. More and more people are learning more and more about each other. More and more people are coming towards each other. Emigration, tourism and business travel are playing a great role in the ever-increasing exchange of human experience. Globalisation will push this exchange even further.
It is again interesting to remember that Islam entered many parts of the world without having to draw the sword for it. Indonesia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa are such places where Islam was introduced through trade rather than war.
This is still possible today. There is no need for cluster bombs to promote Christianity or for suicide-bombings to promote Islam. Islam is for freedom of choice. Islam is self-confident because the Koran says it is the true Word of God. So truth will out in the end. Otherwise, why should it be called truth ? There should be no fear, therefore, for a Christian priest to talk about Christianity live on Iqraa TV, or for a Muslim imam to talk about Islam live on World Harvest Radio. Why shouldn’t there be a fair competition between all ? Truth will out !
I like to call mine « al-Haq theory ». Read, if you like, Verse 52 of FUSSILAT. It looks as if history is heading towards the day when knowledge of God will reach every corner of the world. AL FATIHA will become the most known-by-heart text all over the world. God will be prayed in all languages, in all parts of the world, on land, on the sea, on air, and even in space. There will be hardly a place on earth where God won’t be known to Man.
Only then could history end. One could imagine God saying then to Angels : « Did I not tell you that…. (ALBAQARA : 32).
And then, « Islam will end up strange as it began strange ». A sad dénouement, isn’t it ?