Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,
An American reader, Gordon Reade, sent me the following question, which is no doubt on the minds of many:
“In America our history books say that while Europe was mired in the dark ages, the Arabs led the world in art, education, science, math, philosophy, military power and you name it. According to our books, a thousand years ago the Arabs were every bit as powerful as America is today.
But what our books don’t tell us is what went wrong. The Arabs of today would be virtually unrecognizable to the Arabs of the past. Clearly you guys suffered some tremendous catastrophe long before 1967 and long before 1948. What went wrong and when did it happen? Do the Arabs have a name for it?”
I answered him: True, we ruled and enlightened the world for some thousand years, reaching China, India, Central Asia, Africa, Spain and northern Europe.
Our contributions to science and culture were immeasurable. They included the invention of the zero, algebra and the astrolabe and the discovery of blood circulation.
We translated Greek, Indian and Persian literary treasures and added our own. Then, we fought each other and the Ottoman Turks took over the Islamic Caliphate and united its disintegrated empire. While the Turks are not Arabs, they are Muslims.
At the time, they used Arabic alphabet and ruled our world in the name of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as his successors “Caliphs”.
The Ottomans were once the most powerful nation on earth. They ruled supreme for many centuries. At the end of 19th century, they began to decline. Their mistake was the one oft repeated by many empires.
They felt so invincible that they had no need to consult with anyone regarding anything they did in the world, no matter how vital or colossal. Arrogance and mistreatment of subject people led to revolts, including some in Arab countries. Still, their rule continued until World War I when they and their allies, the Germans, were defeated.
The Western victors then took over and colonized the Arab world, lasting up to the late sixties. They left behind dictatorial regimes; most still rule today with Western support. America, alone, installed some of the most horrible regimes and leaders like Saddam Hussein and others.
Today, the Arabs suffer from a decline on all fronts. Politically, most of us are prisoners to emergency and revolutionary rules.
Economically, altogether we produce every year less than Spain. Culturally, we print fewer than one percent of the books in the world. We have questionable levels of poverty, quality of education and unemployment rates. That says it all.