At the Threshold of a New Millennium
As every dawn, sunrise, and upcoming spring signifies a new beginning and hope, so does every new century and millennium. In this respect, within the wheels of time over which we have no control, humanity has always sought a new spark of life, a breath as fresh as the wind of dawn, and has hoped and desired to step into light from darkness as easily as crossing a threshold.
We can only speculate as to when the original man and woman appeared on Earth, which is equated with the Heavens due to the divine art it exhibits, its ontological meaning, and its value largely coming from its chief inhabitant: humanity. According to the calendar we use today, we are at the threshold of the third millennium after the birth of Jesus. However, since time revolves and advances in a helicoidal relativity, there are many ways of measuring time. For example, according to the calendar that currently enjoys global acceptance, we are about to cross the threshold of a new thousand-year period. According to other calendars, we are already in the second half of the sixth millennium (Jewish), the Kali Yuga era (Hindu), and are approaching the end of the first half of the second millennium (Muslim).
But we should remember that this measure of time is relative. While a 100-year period is assumed to be the measure for a century, the idea of a 60-year century, based on the life span of an average person, also is worth mentioning. From this point of view, we are already in the forth millennium after the birth of Jesus, and the third millennium after the hijra (the starting point of the Muslim calendar). I rasie this issue due to the spiritual discomfort engendered by the terrifying auguries, especially in the West, believed to be associated with the upcoming millennium.
People live in perpetual hope and thus are children of hope. At the instant they lose their hope, they also lose their “fire” of life, no matter if their physical existence continues. Hope is directly proportional to having faith. Just as winter constitutes one-fourth of a year, so the periods in a person’s or a society’s life corresponding to winter also are small. The gears of Divine acts revolve around such comprehensive wisdom and merciful purposes. Just as the cycle of night and day builds one’s hope and revivifies one’s spirit, and every new year comes in expectations of spring and summer, disastrous periods are short and followed by happy times in both an individual’s life and a nation’s history.
This cycle of the “Days of God,” which is centered in Divine Wisdom, holds no fear or pessimism for those with faith, insight, and genuine perceptive faculties. Rather, it is a source of continuous reflection, remembrance, and thanksgiving for those with an apprehensive heart, inner perception, and the ability to hear. Just as a day develops in the heart of night, and just as winter furnishes the womb in which spring grows, so one’s life is purified, matures, and bears its expected fruits within this cycle. In this same cycle, God-given abilities become aptitudes and talents, sciences blossom like roses and weave technology in the workbench of time, and humanity gradually approaches its predestined end.
Having stated this general view, which is neither personal nor subjective but rather an objective fact of history, do not think that we welcome either winter or winter-like events, such as sorrow, disease, and disaster. Despite the general fact that disease eventually increases the body’s resistance, strengthens its immune system, and drives medical progress, it is pathological and harmful. It is the same with terrestrial and celestial disasters. From a theological and moral point of view, they result from our sins and oppression, which are enough to shake the Earth and the Heavens, and from engaging in deeds declared forbidden and despised by law and ethics (whether religious or secular). Even though they awaken people to their mistakes and negligence; provoke developments in geology, architecture, engineering, and related safety measures; and elevate believers’ demolished belongings to the level of charity and the believers themselves to the level of martyrdom, such disasters cause much destruction and harm humanity.
We read in the Qur’an: Unless God hampered some (of you) with some other (of you), the mosques, monasteries, and synagogues in which God is worshipped would have fallen into ruins (22:40). In other words, God would be so little known that men and women, who are inclined not to recognize anything superior to them or believe that they will be questioned in the Hereafter, will go astray completely, thereby making the Earth unsuitable for human life. There is also the divine decree: You consider something as evil although it is good for you; you also consider something else as good although it is bad for you (2:216). For example, war is permissible. Although wars based on specific principles and with the intent to improve the existing situation may have benefits, they should not be demanded, for they leave behind ruined houses, destroyed families, and weeping orphans and widows.
The realities of life cannot be neglected, nor should they be ignored. Human beings are mirrors for God’s Names and Attributes, and thus are distinguished from the rest of creation with the honor of being responsible for making the Earth prosperous in His name. If they cannot grasp the wisdom and purposes behind any good or evil sent their way by their Creator, they cannot escape despair and pessimism. For them, as is seen in Existentialist literature, life turns into a meaningless process, existence into a purposeless vacuity, nonsense into the only criteria, suicide into a meritorious act, and death becomes the only inevitable reality.
Basic human nature
After presenting the issues that constitute the basis of this subject, we can switch to our considerations regarding the third millennium.
Human history began with two people who constituted the essence of humanity and complemented each other. People lived a tranquil life during this time of the original mother and father and the families that descended from them. They were a united society that had the same views and shared the same environment and lives. From that day on, the essence of humanity has remained unchanged, and it will remain so. The realities surrounding their lives, their physical structure, main characteristics, basic needs, place and time of birth and death, selection of parents and physique, innate characteristics, as well as the surrounding natural environment have not changed. All of these require some essential and vital invariable realities and values. Thus, the development and alteration of life’s secondary realities should be based on the axis of these primary realities and values, so that life will continue as a worldly paradise under the shadow of Heaven.
We mentioned above some issues that seem harmful and unpleasant. Similarly, there are human traits that appear to be evil at first glance, such as hatred, jealousy, enmity, the desire to dominate others, greed, rage, and egoism. We also have other innate drives and needs that allow our worldly life to continue, such as the need to eat and drink and the drives of lust and anger. All of our drives, needs, and desires should be guided and trained toward the eternal, universal, and invariable values that address the fundamental aspects of humanity. In this respect, the need to eat and drink, and the desire associated with lust and rage, can be tamed and transformed into means of absolute or relative good. Likewise, egoism and hatred can become sources of fine attributes and goodness. Jealousy and rivalry can be transformed into competition in charitable and good deeds. Enmity can be transformed into enmity against Satan, our greatest enemy, and against the feeling of enmity itself and hatred. Greed and rage can become a drive that will force one to perform good deeds without tiredness. Egoism can point out the evil aspects of the carnal soul (nafs), thereby seeking to train and purify the soul by not excusing its evil actions.
All negative feelings can be transformed into sources of good by training and struggle. This is how one reaches the level of “the best of Creation,” by traveling the way of transformation from a potential human being to a real and perfected human being, to becoming the best symbol, model, and personal representative of creation and existence.
Despite this fact, the realities of human life do not always follow these guidelines. Negative feelings and attributes often defeat people, pulling them under their domination to such an extent that even the religions guiding them to goodness and kindness are abused, as well as the feelings and attributes that are sources of absolute good. At the level of the individual and of humanity as a whole, human life is merely the summation of internal, personal struggles and their external manifestations. These tides make the personal world of the individual, society, and history an arena of battle, struggle, war, oppression, and tyranny. As a result, usually we are the ones who suffer the consequences.
Men and women always receive the fruits of their deeds. In the first period of human history, we lived a happy life as a single society whose members shared their joys and sorrows. But, later on we bound our necks and feet with a rusty yoke composed of chains of oppression due to jealousy, greed, and coveting other’s rights and properties. The consequence was Cain’s murder of Abel. As a result, we entered the path of disunity. Despite the millenniums coming one after the other like days, seasons and years, this cycle continues.
The second millennium
The second millennium started with the Crusades and then the Mongol invasions of the Muslim world, which was like the heart of the Earth and history at that time. But this millennium was not limited only to the ensuing wars and destruction, and the crimes committed sometimes in the name of religion and sometimes in the name of economic, political and military supremacy. It also witnessed the apex of the Eastern civilization, based on spirituality, metaphysical, universal and eternal values, and Western civilization, based on the physical sciences. Many significant geographical discoveries and scientific inventions also occurred.
However, both civilizations existed separated from each other. This separation, which should not have occurred, was based on the former’s retiring from the intellect and science, while the latter retired from spirituality, metaphysics, and eternal and invariable values. As a result, the last centuries of this millennium witnessed disasters that are hard to believe. Due to humanity’s growing arrogance and egoism, arising from its accomplishments, we have lived through worldwide colonialism, immense massacres, revolutions that cost millions of lives, unimaginably bloody and destructive wars, racial discrimination, immense social and economic injustice, and iron curtains built by regimes whose ideology and philosophy sought to deny humanity’s essence, freedom, merit, and honor. It is partly because of this and partly because of some Biblical auguries that many people in the West fear that the world will be soaked again by floods of blood, pus, and destruction. They are quite pessimistic and worried about the new millennium.
Modern means of communication and transportation have transformed the world into a large, global village. Those who expect that any radical changes in a country will be determined by that country alone and remain limited to it are unaware of current realities. This time is a period of interactive relations. Nations and peoples are more in need of and dependent on each other, which causes closeness in mutual relations.
This network of relations, which has surpassed the period of brute colonialism and exists on the basis of mutual interest, provides some benefits to the weaker side. Moreover, owing to advances in technology, especially digital electronic technology, the acquisition and exchange of information grows gradually. As a result, the individual comes to the fore, making it inevitable that democratic governments respecting personal rights will replace oppressive regimes.
As each individual is like a species with respect to other species, individual rights cannot be sacrificed for society, and social rights should depend on individual rights. This is why the basic human rights and freedoms found in the revealed religions came to be considered by a war-weary West. They will enjoy priority in all relations. At the head of these rights is the right to life, which is granted and can be taken away only by God. Islam accentuates this right: If one person kills another unjustly, it is the same as if he or she had killed all of humanity; if one saves another, it is the same as if he or she has saved all of humanity (5:32).
Other rights are the freedom of religion, belief, thought, and expression; the right to own property and the sanctity of one’s home; to marry and have children; to communication and travel; and the right to and freedom of education. The principles of Islamic jurisprudence are based on these and other rights, all of which are accepted by modern legal systems: the protection of life, religion, property, reproduction, and intellect. Others include human equality based on the fact that all people are human beings, and the rejection of all racial, color, and linguistic discrimination. All of these will be—and should be—indispensable essentials in the new millennium.
I believe and hope that the world of the new millennium will be a happier, more just, and more compassionate place, contrary to the fears of some people. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all come from the same root, have almost the same essentials, and are nourished from the same source. Although they have been rivals for centuries, their common points and shared responsibility to build a happy world for all creatures of God make interfaith dialogue necessary. This dialogue has now expanded to include the religions of Asia and other areas. Results have been positive.
As mentioned above, this dialogue will develop as a necessary process, and followers of all religions will find ways to get closer and assist each other.
Previous generations witnessed a bitter struggle that should never have taken place: science versus religion. This conflict gave rise to atheism and materialism, which have influenced Christianity more than other religions. Science cannot contradict religion, for its purpose is to understand nature and humanity, which are each a composition of the manifestations of God’s Attributes of Will and Power. Religion has its source in the Divine Attribute of Speech that was manifested as Divine Scriptures (i.e., the Qur’an, the Gospels, the Torah, and others). Thanks to the efforts of both Christian and Muslim theologians and scientists, it seems that this long-standing conflict betweenscience and religion finally will end, or at least have its absurdity acknowledged.
The end of this conflict and a new style of education, fusing religious and scientific knowledge together with morality and spirituality, will produce genuinely enlightened people whose hearts will be illuminated with religious sciences and spirituality. Their minds will be illuminated with positive sciences, characterized by humane merits and morale values, and cognizant of current socioeconomic and political conditions. Our old world will experience an excellent “spring-time” before its demise. This spring-time will see the gap between rich and poor narrow; the world’s riches distributed most justly according to one’s work, capital, and needs; the absence of discrimination based on race, color, language, and world-view; and basic human rights and freedoms protected. Individuals will come to the fore and, learning how to realize their potential, will ascend on the way to becoming “the most elevated human” with the wings of love, knowledge, and belief.
In this new “spring-time,” when scientific and technological progress is considered, people will understand that the current level of science and technology resembles the stage when an infant is learning how to crawl. Humanity will organize trips into space as if traveling to another country. Travelers on the way to God, those self-immolators of love who have no time for hostility, will carry the inspirations in their spirits to other worlds. Yes, this spring-time will rise on the foundations of love, compassion, mercy, dialogue, acceptance of others, mutual respect, justice, and rights. It will be a time in which humanity will discover its real essence. Goodness, kindness, righteousness, and virtue will form the world’s basic essence. No matter what happens, the world will come to this track sooner or later. Nobody can prevent this.
We pray and beg the Infinitely Compassionate One not to let our hopes and expectations come to nothing.