The historian and former banker, Benedikt Koehler, in his lecture on ‘Early Islam and the Birth of Capitalism’ appears at a loss to explain what happened to the critical inquiry and dynamic underpinning that was the distinctive feature of the Early Islamic zeitgeist (watch from 49.05).
A young Hamza Yusuf once remarked bitterly in an old lecture that he was trying to calculate the exact day when all the Muslims collectively got together and – crank! – ‘switched their brains off ‘. (I will try and locate the exact lecture in due course.) Despite his frustrations in the joke, this notion – the implication – posits the ‘Closing of the Gates of Ijtihad’ scenario. We will explore this train of thought in due course (see below).
But what is being probed is the issue that where once the Muslim world was in a position of power, leading the world in sciences, economics and culture, now the same world has fallen to an all-time low. So what happened?