The period between 12th and 16th Century is considered the peak of Muslim rule in the world. In line with their vision and wisdom Muslim rulers in India built a large number of monumental structures. For instance, a red sandstone tower called Qutb Minar. It is 72.5 m high, tapering from 2.75 m in diameter at its peak to 14.32 m at its base. It’s construction started in early 1200 and after several pauses, the tower construction was completed in 1386. That was precisely the period during which – in the other part of the world – the foundations of world’s two top-tier Universities namely Oxford and Cambridge were being laid in the UK!
Similarly, at the peak of Muslim empire in India, an immense mausoleum of white marble was completed in Agra in 1648 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. The Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage. But it is no co-incidence that Harvard University, a top-tier Ivy League research University was built in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1636, whose history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
Dolmabahce Palace overlooking beautiful Bosphorus strait was built in Turkey between 1843 and 1856, at a time when life for the average person in Istanbul or the rest of the Ottoman Empire was not easy or comforting. On the other hand, Stanford University was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford, dedicated to Leland Stanford Jr, their only child. The institution opened in 1891 on Stanford’s 650 acre Palo Alto farm in California, US. It is a top technical research university with an acceptance rate of less than 5% i.e. for every 100 applicants, only 5 get selected! And almost all those applicants are best-in-class.
The above three were not the only blunders made. These are just a handful examples. Because the purpose of this piece is not to catalogue all the wasteful past and present projects. The objective is just to compare and contrast some of the major causes and their effects on our present lives. God gave Muslims a large part of His world to test what they will do with their power and resources. Having failed that test, the geography under their control began shrinking!
Instantly punishing nations for their mistakes is against the nature of Divine Law. What happened in Aleppo last night; or Falluja last year; or Gaza the year before is simply the harvest of what we have sowed centuries back. American, Israeli and Russian Air Forces and laser-guided missiles – riding on the back of unmatched technological advantage – completely demolished the will and infrastructure of these small towns who stood up against tyranny and foreign occupation. And these supremely tragic destructions do not seem to be one-off, isolated episodes. There are enough indications that the payback time for our past mistakes and misguided priorities has come. But we are still seduced by Petronas Towers and Burj Khalifas (more new towers on the drawing boards) in addition to our own mini Taj Mahals i.e. extravagant houses that all resourceful folks build. This is why we are likely to witness more Aleppos, Gazas and Fallujas in different parts of the world in months and years to come.
An interesting cat that is completely out of the bag in Syrian crisis and the siege of Aleppo is the collusion between the US and Russia. When it came to Muslim issues, including Palestine, they have always been together. But now it is blatantly clear despite “diplomatic” dramas shown on the media. One positive trait of fascist ideologies and leaders is that they play their games openly. For instance, RSS in India is openly anti-Muslim. Keeping with this fascist tradition, Trump does not hide his love for Russia. On appointing Chevron Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Trump praised him in these words “He does massive deals in Russia”. What an interesting qualification for an American Foreign Secretary to be deeply connected in Russia! A recent CIA report also confirmed that “Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win the presidency”! Going forward, they will be glued together. Openly. Imagine what is coming for those who are weak and already brutalized!
Crying, cribbing and complaining never helps. Only constructive actions do. But we seem to have learnt no lesson over the past 300-400 years. As mentioned in my previous articles, the rebuilding of nations cannot start from the “50th floor or 70th floor”.In the 2015 list of top 200 Universities, not a single University appears from 50+ Muslim countries. Similarly, in the PISA test (meant to assess the mathematical, scientific and English proficiency of school going students), not a single Muslim country figured in the top 45 countries. For developing top-class human capital who are self-reliant for their survival and growth, the starting point is a strong foundation i.e. top-class, research oriented schools. Once a strong foundation (not weak foundation based on run-of-the mill schooling programs) is built, the overall socioeconomic structure of the society on top of that foundation will automatically become formidable. It will then be able to withstand the mounting pressures of rapidly spreading fascism all around us.
Sadly, millions of Muslims around the world still take pride in their rulers’ bizarre decisions to build Taj Mahals, Qutub Minars and Dolmabache Palaces (and continue to praise Petronas, Burj Khalifas etc). Surprisingly, these cheerleaders include “top intellectuals” and “community leaders”. These folks fail to acknowledge that our predecessors who spent precious resources on building palaces and towers are now consigned to the trash-bin of history. While nations who invested their resources wisely and prioritized areas that needed priority (e.g. research-oriented education) are able to display their power and prestige all over the world.
If an Oxford was built in New Delhi instead of Qutub Minar; a Harvard was built in Agra instead of Taj Mahal and a Stanford was built in Istanbul in place of Dolmabache Palace, subsequent generations for centuries to come would immensely benefit , and also be proud of and grateful to their leaders- apart from being safe and happy today.
By Mansoor Durrani