It is not necessary to point out that the Eastern countries have learnt
much in matters of sciences and industries, which are occasionally referred
to as European, either in the schools of Europe itself or in the oriental
institution which were established on the European pattern.
This is an accomplished fact and needs no further explanation. Further
it is understood quite naturally. The important point which matters while
speaking about the impact of European civilization on the East is the psychological
impression it left on the spirit of the East and the conscience of its
sons. We are not among those who believe that this impression was inherent
in the sciences and industries themselves. There have been misunderstandings
about the aims of these sciences and industries which do not necessarily
entail a serious change either in the spiritual field or in the world of
further, we go back to what was said about the spherical shape of the earth
and its rotation. This theory was not new to Eastern culture, but not to
the ordinary people and people with limited thinking capacity and no material
proofs to support the view. The result was that the ignorant denied the
concept altogether utilizing what appeared to them to be the meaning of
religious texts. But when the theory of the globular shape of the earth
and its rotation came from the West, proved by geographical discoveries,
the mistake of the ignorant was exposed and religion was scientifically
understood. This continued for a period during which doubt crept into the
minds of the educated class which could not deny the theory of the earth's
globular shape nor the view about its rotation. This doubt continued in
the minds until the scientific facts were acknowledged. The ignorant were
then unable to contradict these views by the religious texts and with this
the misunderstanding and misinterpretation was removed from their minds.
This exactly what we intended when we stated that the sciences and industries
had no worthwhile impact on the spiritual life of the Eastern countries,
these sciences and industries remained in the intellectual and mechanical
fields without touching the inner soul of the Easterners. We prefer the
statement that the spiritual life in the East was influenced by the outward
expressions of European life and its intellectual theories and not by science
The ways of life which the Europeans conveyed to the Arab East were accompanied,
in practice, by immorality and loosening of hereditary moral restrictions.
People found no difficulty in welcoming the newly-arrived ideas and in criticizing
the traditions which were previously held in great respect.
This aspect of European influence was much deeper and more effective than
that of the sciences and industries on the conscience and mind of the East.
The intellectual theories which affected the spiritual life of the East
are the theory of evolution, Nietzsche's philosophy, the theory of the material
interpretation of history and the philosophy of comparative study
of religions. This influence, as is clearly discernible through its results,
did not go beyond the old philosophy or the Mutazilites' theories which
occupied the minds of the Easterners in the middle of the Abbasid period
and after. These theories found fertile ground only in the minds of some
individuals whose number did not exceed a few hundreds. The people who
were influenced by these theories took them for granted and attached importance
to their titles rather than to their secrets and contents. Such People
of the past like those of the present were like those who believed in the
theory of evolution with the assumption that it had solved the problem
of existence. In fact, the essence of that theory gave no new idea except
that the creation of man and animal was the question of millions of years
instead of thousands and hundreds. It never discussed the secret of eternal
creation which is still open for discussion and thought when everything
has been said about evolution.
The intellectual theories mentioned above did not influence more than a
few people. Even in this respect, the influence was superfluous, for it
did not touch the roots of belief. It only affected those roots which were
bound to disappear.
The important impact of the European civilization on our countries and
peoples can be summarized by drawing the attention of the Easterners to
the understanding of religion, nationalism the relation between man and
Allah and between man and the state which could counter the reactionary
legends and the residue of ignorance which were left behind by the periods
of weakness and decay.
Summing up our study, we have to point out two permanent lessons :- the
first is that all the Eastern and the Western nations are either creditors
or debtors to the legacy of human civilization. There is no nation with
a glorious history which has not given or taken from that legacy. The second
lesson is that nations can benefit from different civilizations unconsciously.
This happens even against the will of the side giving the benefits. It
is a fact that the Western colonialist did not desire to teach the Easterners
the love of their countries, they learnt it despite the Westerners disapproval.
The Easterners used the same weapon which the colonialists used in fighting
them previously and these weapons worked in the hands of the Easterners
ever before they were sure of their effectiveness.
The Holy Quran says what means :" And it may be that
you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and, And were it for Allah's
repelling some men by others, the earth would certainly be in a state of
disorder and, And We bring these days to men by turns".