Professor Ali Mazrui

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Globalisation and the Future of Islamic Civilisation

Let me begin with civilisation. A British philosopher, Bertrand Russel, once said ‘civilisation was born out of the pursuit of luxury'. Because luxury was pursued you ended up with great works, music, the Palace of Versailles, the Taj Mahal etc. Then much closer to our times you had civilisation interpreted more in economic terms, and you had Adam Smith virtually who said that civilisation, or at least Western civilisation was born out of the pursuit of profit. And then also closer to our times Karl Marx saw civilisation and the march of history as borne out of the pursuit of surplus.
I will propose a slightly different idea in this lecture: that civilisation was born out of the pursuit of creative synthesis. The synthesis may be between ethics and knowledge, between religion and science, between one culture and another. The central dynamic is creative synthesis.