بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
If you are a Muslim, you would have heard some variation of the above either directly or indirectly at some point in your life. The genesis for this thought comes from a foundational belief that permeates the entirety of modern culture and is at the heart of humanism. That belief is progress.
Progress means that we have improved on virtually every grounds – morally, scientifically, and philosophically. We are better than peoples of the past, and we continue to get better. Many of the beliefs of the ancients have been demonstrated to be false, such as the belief that the body is composed of 4 elements, or that the heavenly spheres move in perfect circles, or that the earth is the center of the solar system. Others, we know to be morally wrong such as slavery or patriarchy. Naturally, if this is the case, why would someone follow the Prophet Muhammad (s), who is a relic of a past that we have long improved upon? We know better than he did, or so the atheist would have us believe.
What is shocking is that so many Muslims unreflectively buy this story, when our sources clearly and unambiguously state that humanity will continue to be in a general decline until the return of the Mahdi.
When it comes to morality the denial of such progress is much easier, as there is no empirically verifiable measure for it. One can speak easily of moral change, but to speak of moral progress requires an objective standard, of which the modernist worldview is not forthcoming.
But when it comes to empirical science, then progress is surely undeniable. No one can argue that the views of the ancients were more correct vis-à-vis atomic structures, or the heavenly bodies, or in medicine. They were not even aware of the world of radio waves and radiation and countless other wonders that we have since discovered, nor did they harness such knowledge to create luxuries that even kings of old could only have dreamed of. According to the atheist, the Prophet Muhammad (s) would not have known these things.
What the atheist making this argument fails to realize is that there is a foundational, unproven and arguably demonstrably false assumption being made at the heart of the humanist project. That assumption is that matter is the only fundamental reality and that consciousness arises from matter.
If it is the case that matter is fundamental, then more knowledge of how matter works would constitute a greater understanding of the nature of reality. But if consciousness is more fundamental – and the atheist must admit that even on his own worldview there is at least a 50/50 chance of this being the case – then the deepest understanding of the nature of reality is not a product of purely empirical considerations. In fact, we would expect human consciousness to be able to interface with this deeper level of reality immediately and not through the mediation of the rational mind.
Meditation, not mediation, then becomes the means of accessing Ultimate Reality. And that is precisely what the Prophet Muhammad (s) did in the Cave of Hira 1400 years ago. That is where he (s) saw the Angel Gabriel and received in his heart the reality of the Quran. Eventually, he (s) transcended all of the levels of reality in the Mi’raaj up towards Allah and the secret to all things was disclosed to him – including modern scientific knowledge even if in an ijmaali way. The Prophet (s) was therefore the most knowledgeable human being to have ever lived or will ever live, and no amount of scientific progress can amount to even a fraction of his immediate knowledge of the truth.
For all the wonders of modern science and technology, has it brought people closer or further away from the state of meditation and prayer necessary to achieve such spiritual realization? While it should be the case that our increased knowledge of nature should only increase our amazement at the power of Allah, the reality is that in the modern world we have so neglected our own souls that many of us cannot see the Creator in all things.
As for technology, much of it has been specifically designed to prohibit meditation. Consider that the average person living 500 years ago would have been forced to spend much time meditating in virgin nature just by farming or travelling from one city to another or other daily activities. Consider now the average teenager on TikTok. The function of much of modern entertainment is to prevent us from getting “bored,” in other words – to keep us in a state of perpetual distraction and base pleasure and not engaged in reflection and prayer. While technology can be a blessing used for good, a satanic civilization will develop technologies which further the goals of Satan, the foremost of which is ghaflah – the forgetfulness of God.
We follow the Prophet Muhammad (s) because through his example even in a tumultuous age such as this, we are able to stay grounded. We are reminded that true wisdom is inward. We are reminded to still take the time to stop the distractions for 5 daily prayers and connect with the Most High.