Modern Europe's Impact on the Arab Awakening

The Payment of a Debt

Europe, as it appears from some chapters in this book, spent quite a time receiving Arab culture, indignantly and with a feeling of aversion. The European leaders cursed that period and were displeased with the world and its inhabitants. They found youth drifting away from the original source of guidance; intellectual models seemed to have changed and Christian youth craved for everything Arabic. They had no interest in things of European origin.

The days passed by while everything seemed to be stationary, and all of a sudden there was another cry from the Arab East resembling the one raised by Europeans one thousand years ago. This time, the sons of the East appeared to have no interest in anything except what was European and it was the Arabian which was being looked down upon.

This was a case of the repayment of debt. Often, repayment of debts, incurred by human civilization and handed from one nation to another, is unintended and made in an ungrateful way.

The modern East learnt from Europe as Europe had learnt previously from the ancient East. There is no harm in the exchange of knowledge. Put it had its shortcomings. Passion for the new, as for the old, is a proof of lack of the quality to distinguish one thing from the other. It also lacks the quality of originality.

We in the East have had a period when freedom meant adopting everything because it was new and revolting against the old merely because it was old. That was a period of learning and shortcomings at the same time. This state of affairs continued till a group of Easterners appeared who had liberal views both about the new and the old. One does not lose the quality of being liberal only because one prefers something old to the new. Similarly, it is not liberalism to scoff at everything old. The measuring rod of liberalism is the quality of differentiating between things and selecting what is best.

Then came the hour of consciousness and independence and the period of shortcomings was gone.

Previously, we were obliged willy-nilly to learn and to follow others. Now, we learnt of our own choice and used ingenuity while doing so.

Our learning in the past or the present has not been confined to particular subjects or groups. It covered the entire field of the school, the house and the market. The orthodox, the mediocre and the extremists all had their share in it. We still have to learn a lot about every subject and have to expect advancement from all parties. But all that must be done in a conscientious manner and no shortcomings are to be allowed.

This age will reach its climax after a time and the world will not experience any further changes. It is probable that a similar cry will be heard again from some other part on the globe. It is also probable that it may come this time from the East, but it will have a different character. It may be welcomed by the spiritual world, if not by the intellectual or scientific circles. It may also be disliked by the ruling circles and by people wielding authority.