Orientalism is one of the angles of a triangle constituting conspiracies against Islam; the two other angles being missionary and colonialism. In fact, Orientalism is the most dangerous as its aims and objectives further affects substantial number of thinkers and intellectuals with its strong impact lasting in the long run. The extent of the damage and annoyance caused to Islam by orientalism is much more as compared to the act of missionary and colonialism, ancient or new, as orientalism basically aims to disrupt the very image of “Islam”.
Although the aims and objectives of orientalism are similar to that of missionaries, the main difference between them is that missionaries concentrate on general people, while orientalism targets intellectuals. Undoubtedly, both operate for the domination of the West over the East, domination of the West on the Islamic World particularly in social, cultural, economic, political, moral and religious aspects. The Orientalists heralded the beginning of colonialism. First, through their studies and research in the Eastern countries, they framed the idea of invasion in the minds of Western rulers. For example, Napoleon was thus, seduced to conquer Egypt in 1798 owing to the notebook of travel of French orientalist, Compte De Volnay. Thereafter, the Orientalists helped the colonialists to occupy Eastern territories by paving the way for such an invasion.
At present, we know that a large number of Orientalists were pioneers in the colonialist army too, like Watson and Richard. Finally, they played an outstanding role in perpetuating the Colonial and Western rule, as policy-makers and diplomats. This enabled them to hold key posts in the ministries concerned, even in the very administration of the occupied countries. The notorious and despicable policy of Divide and Rule was also a result of studies affected by Orientalists on various Islamic sects. In this regard, we can quote a long list of Orientalist conceived and developed instead, the policy of ‘Fabricate and Rule’. They forged up stories in their bid to corrupt the purity of the Islamic message and inserted lies now and again in their quotations of Islamic scriptures. Thus, the unaware readers were misled. Their aim is to impair the perfect image of Islam in the eyes of European people in order to prevent them from joining the truth. It is to this regard that the British Muslim, Lord N. G. Headley said in his book, A Western Awakening to Islam that ‘it’s a great pity that these people present our sincere religion in a damaged form. Several times, the Orientalists told us, during our discussion, that you people worship Muhammad, marry four times and you believe that women have no soul, and you forbid them to enter in mosques”. Lord Headley added: “that is a very malicious act indeed to spread one’s religion with fabricated lies at the expense of another religion.”
Dear reader, the Orientalists have a wonderful trick to prove something if they do not have any historical and academic support for their fabrications. With the frequent and multiplied repetition of their lies, gradually their malicious and erroneous quotations take the shape of conviction in the minds of the people. Their influence of repetition in a clever method fuels many powerful arguments. In this way, they target numerous people to believe their fabrications. For example, one orientalist introduces a baseless idea against Islam, the second one comes and elaborates it, the third one pops in with added possibilities of the same idea, the fourth converts same into a theory, and finally the last one transforms that theory into a fact beyond doubt. Hence, we can see how a baseless idea within five stages gets converted into a fact.
The book ‘Satanic Verses’ is the fruit of such diabolical scheme. The book is not only a mountain of abuses but also contains several examples of fabrications like what Jibrail (A.S) told the Prophet (S.A.W) that: “Beyond any shadow of doubt, it is impossible to walk on the moon.” Most of the scholars who have replied to that satanic work concentrate on the larger part of the book concerning the abuses, whereas, the most dangerous poison lies in the fabrication which the author perniciously slips in his book, creating misunderstanding in the minds of Western people. For example, the above-quoted statement aims at presenting Islam as a backward and unscientific religion. Such forged and unscientific statement can be found only in satanic verses but not in the beautiful verses of the QURAN. The book was devised to portray a false image of Islam.
Even the term ‘Satanic Verses’ is not the invention of its authors, but was frequently used by Orientalists. We can find this term in the encyclopaedia of Medieval History prepared and published by Cambridge University. Also, German Orientalist, Brocelman used this term in his book, The History of Islamic Nations. Furthermore, we find the same term in the book, Historical Studies in English Language, and in this book there is a specified title named ‘The Beginning of Opposition and Satanic Verses’. Apart from this, there is a new trick employed which aims at insulting the dignity of Muslims and provoking their wrath to such an unbearable extent that the latter react due to the confusion caused. Finally, that reaction is largely exploited by the media in such a way that it thereby portrays the Muslims as being extremists and followers of a violent religion. May Allah forbid!
Among their new tricks is the presentation of their ideas which seems very much appealing to the Muslims. For example, Michael H. Hart’s book, The 100 received a large appreciation from Muslim intellectuals because the author recognizes the Prophet (S.A.W) in that book as the most influential personality in human history. But a perusal of the book shows that the biography of the last Prophet (S.A.W) contains borrowed ideas from Orientalists. Thus, the unaware Muslims are trapped in the clever trick of a big praise under which is hidden a poisonous snake. On the other hand, the book gives the impression that there are no other important historical Muslim personalities, except the Prophet (S.A.W) and Umar bn Al-Khattab (R.A) in the list of the 100 most influential, while a small country like United Kingdom provides about 19 of such personalities. Hence, we can see that the policy of ‘Fabricate and Rule’ does no less harm than the previous policy of “Divide and Rule”.
Dear reader, can we trace the beginning of orientalism? It is indeed very difficult to answer this, because the individual efforts go back to the very ancient times, and it is more or less impossible to predict any precise period for the beginning of individual orientalism. According to the human nature, people are curious to know about the customs of other people and it is quite normal that there were accounts of many other ways of life. We are not here to discuss individual efforts, but we are here to discuss the organized Orientalism; the powerful academic institutions which strive actively for the domination of the West in the fields of politics, religion and culture mainly, since the medieval period.
There still exists a question: “when did this organized Orientalism begin?” According to Dr. Fat’hulla Zyadi, it began with the crusades, fulfilling the testament of King Louis IX of France, who himself had participated in the crusade wars and had also commanded the eighth crusade war. In that war, Salahuddin Al-Ayyuubi (R.A) defeated Louis IX, crushing his army and imprisoning the French monarch. Later, Salahuddin Al-Ayyuubi (R.A), imbued with the Islamic virtues of mercy and forgiveness, released the French King. But the King was never released from his psychological and mental prison until death. Before his death, he left his well-known testament in which he urged the Christian world to fight against Islam in the field of faith and thought, and according to him, as mentioned in his will: Muslim cannot be defeated in the battle-fields unless they are defeated in the field of faith and ideas. That testament still exists and according to Professor Zyadi, organized Orientalism emerged out of that very will of Louis IX.
Generally, Orientalists observe that the original motive behind their work is purely academic, but the facts contradict their pledge. We do not deny that there is no academic motive at all in their work. We know that some Western people chose Orientalism just to fulfil their intellectual interests, like Carlyle, Itiyandiné, Marcel Béjart, Roger Garandy, etc. But despite that consideration, the mainstream of orientalism is motivated by religious and political objectives. We do have sufficient proof that the most powerful motive behind orientalism was, and still targets religious and political order.
The Orientalists understood, since the beginning, that they could not achieve their goal unless they capture the knowledge that the Muslims had acquired. First, they rushed into Islamic Universities in Cordova, Baghdad and Alexandria. It was the time when the Islamic civilization was at its apex. Generally, the western historians refer to that period as the dark ages and Gothic nights. But in reality, when Europe was in the dark, the Islamic countries were shining in an era of religious and cultural splendour.
Gustave Le Bon said: “If Arabs could occupy France, Paris also would have become a centre of culture and civilization, like Cordova in Spain, where common people were able to read and write and some of them could compose poetry too, while the monarchs of Europe at that time were unable to write their names.” Almost each city of the Muslim world had a large library; every Masjid was a centre for education and learning. In Vilderante’s ‘Story of Civilization’, the Sultan of Bukhaara invited a well-known Muslim physician to join his court, but the latter declined his offer on the ground that he needed 400 camels to carry his books. And at that time, according to Vilderante, the Bible itself was not available outside the churches!
(c) Muhyid-Deen Imaam