Prince Ghazi characteristically begins by diligently outlining his approach to the subject. The first third of the book serves as a historical primer, summarizing many important ideas and concepts such as the Industrial Revolution, colonialism, secularism, Modernism, Fundamentalism, Western hegemony, leadership, education, and so much more. I’ve had to re-read several key passages multiple times. Throughout all this, the unifying theme is one main idea: CRISIS.
The next third deals with the present: about the Middle-East and leadership chaos, materialism and discontent, and changes to the Muslim psyche due to a variety of factors that include unchecked media usage. All the time people now spend on television, video games, social media, and pornography, has an opportunity cost. We now spend much less time on productive work, on personal growth, on family and real social interaction. There is a real cognitive cost too because many young people seem unable to concentrate or follow a chain of thought for more than a few minutes. Moreover, in all that time people are on television, social media and pornography, their baser consciousness and lower selves (nafs) are given free rein. Their cognitive faculties and spiritualities are left to wilt in airless and sunless cabinets. Is it any wonder why the state of the world is as it is now? Man is the microcosm.
The last third of the book deals with trends and therefore possible futures. These include political trends (a decline in civilisation?), economic trends (the elimination of cash?), technological trends (the rise of robots?), cultural trends (moral relativism leads to its natural conclusion?). Thankfully, in this third of the book, he begins to look at 'remedies'.
The four remedies are: 1) turning to God in prayer, 2) reading quality books, 3) time management, and 4) consensus (both in society and leadership as well as an 'inner consultation'). Because he has already covered point 1 in earlier books, he really elaborates on point 2, reading, even going so far as to offer several reading lists that run the gamut from Al-Ghazali through to Ibn Ata'Illah, to Plato, to Charlotte Brontë. Reader, he recommends Jane Eyre.
He says, "There thus remains only one feasible option for broadening one's horizons and mind, and becoming more objective and tolerant. It is this: that people should put down their mobile phones, and turn off the net and the TV, and spend at least an hour every day in silent, solitary, and systematic reading."
Don't think you can afford that hour each day? Flip the question over: can we afford NOT to spend an hour reading each day? Also, consider these statistics: per day the average Singaporean spends over 2 hours watching shows or movies, and over 2 hours on social media. That's over 4 hours being very unproductive. Consider also that study after study has concluded that social media use precipitates depression, anxiety, poor sleep quality, low self-esteem, inattention, and hyperactivity. In his foreword to this book, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf says, "Societies characterised by, among other things, reading and the pursuit of knowledge tend to have higher happiness indices that ones that don't." Reading makes us happier, more thoughtful, and well, better. Man is the microcosm. If he works on improving himself, the world will start to heal as well.
This book ends, appropriately for a book on Our Times, on the environmental crisis. But the remedy is the same. We need to work on ourselves, to realise our destiny, to lift our aspirations, to set our sights on Heaven.
God is aware of every leaf that falls, as the Quran says. So He is certainly aware of the demonic corruption we are releasing upon Nature. What we are doing to the environment is not only self-destructive but an affront to His Majesty and Beauty, for everything in Nature hymns praises to God.
Prince Ghazi concludes by saying: ‘Vices corrupt the vicegerent, and the vicegerent corrupts the world. Therefore to purify the world of corruption, the vicegerent must start with his or her own vices.’
And God knows best.
A Thinking Person's Guide to Our Times
Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad