Many thinkers and writers invest their time, energy, and intelligence in trying to prove the superiority of one school of thought over another. That is not the purpose of my writing at all. I only intend to make clear the immense difference between two worldviews – Islam and the West.
Secondly, most authors only highlight the religious, social, political, and economic differences. I focus on the underlying philosophical and spiritual differences, which are the root cause of all other differences. If we don’t understand that, our quest for intellectual clarity is bound to fail.
The benefit of it is preventing people from being a traveler on both ships simultaneously. It is up to you which ship you want to choose but don’t become a confused person inflicted with an identity crisis.
Greatness is an attire every human wants to wear. All our passions, dreams, hard work, and efforts revolve around the pursuit of greatness. That is where Islam and the West are entirely opposed to each other.
In Western Thought, since the purpose of life is self-glorification, greatness is directly proportional to how much you have affirmed yourself. This affirmation is expressed in talents, abilities, skills, knowledge, achievements, accomplishments, materialistic success, power, wealth, fame, glory, pleasure, and happiness – in simple words, whatever pampers your ego to the fullest.
In Islamic Thought, the purpose of life is the glorification of Allah. Greatness is calculated in terms of how much you have negated yourself because you cannot glorify Allah in the true sense without diminishing your importance. This self-negation is expressed by traits of humility, humbleness, worship, service to humanity, purity of intention, spiritual cleansing, piety (God-consciousness), renunciation of worldly pleasures, seeking divine knowledge, patience on tribulations, gratitude towards blessings, refinement of ethics, and elevation of morals – in simple words whatever curbs your ego to the fullest.
What are the psychological implications of this distinction? Does Islam not emphasize happiness? Islam says that true happiness is not dependent on any external stimuli. This permanent happiness is a fruit of one’s connection and relationship with Allah based on reciprocation rather than blind faith. In Western Thought, happiness is based on some form of stimulus because it is a distraction from the void within and thus temporary. While there is no guarantee of inner peace after attaining greatness in the Western way, Islam promises contentment and solace as a consequence of pursuing the righteous path.
So, in essence, and spirit, Islamic Thought is not just different from Western Thought – it is actually in total contradiction. So, it is up to you whether you want to please your Creator or what you want to satisfy your ego. Both paths are crystal clear for any person of sound IQ. You don’t need to be a genius to figure it out.
May Allah accept us for striving to be great in His eyes alone – Ameen!