Sunday, May 30, 2010
Interview to Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr
In the preface to “The Heart of Islam,” you say you wrote all your works to preserve tradition. What does tradition mean to you and why is its preservation so important?
The English word tradition is used in different ways, including customs, habits and historical transmission, but for me tradition means a reality of sacred origin which is given to humanity through revelation. Through preservation and application of that teaching, of that sacred instruction, our civilization was created. The same is true for the Western civilization. The Christian civilization was created by the coming of Christ. That is the beginning of the Christian tradition, and then it created the Western civilization with many forms of sacred Christian architecture, theology, ethics and forms of social structure.
How did the West come to this point?
In a sense, if we speak in Islamic terms, the leaders of the society in the West decided to sacrifice the akhira to the dunya completely [Nasr is referring to Quran 2:86, which reads: “These are the people who buy the life of this world (ad-dunya) at the price of the Hereafter (al-akhira).”] The great German poet Goethe in “Faust” speaks about this. Faust sells his soul to the devil in order to get power and technology. So everything is sacrificed for material ends and earthly human welfare. But we also have spiritual needs.
Can we update Western democracy into a new system where our spiritual needs are also provided for?
First of all, democracy is a method; it is not a value system. It is a method of government, and it is a question of having more people participate.
Democracy is also not ideal in the West. Money is much more powerful than the individual. We see this in the US. You cannot even participate in a nomination for a party unless you’re a millionaire to begin with.
See herethe complete interview.