EMPIRES GO THROUGH THE SAME STAGES

I recently saw an article on the BBC website titled; “Afghanistan: Taliban unveil new rules banning women in TV dramas”. This made me think about the contrast between the two countries and the two societies and reminded me of the words written by Sir John Glubb. Glubb has written a compelling thesis titled, “The fate of empires and search for survival.” The book, only 26 pages, identifies the stages in the rise and fall of an empire; arguing that all empires go through the same processes and life span.

The point I am trying to make here is that the two nations are not only on a unique and separate journey, they are on a separate trajectory. Each is at a predestined location of their journey. As Glubb’s thesis suggests the Afghani leadership may have a valid reason for being hesitant in following in the footsteps of the western civilisations, to be more precisely their culture. The West is in decay, the western culture is showing the signs of being in the final stages of its decline, according to Glubb’s thesis.

Glubb points out two distinct behaviours that can be observed easily when the lifecycle of an empire is nearing completion. (1) Women compete for jobs that are traditionally done by men. (2) Vulgar music and poetry become common.

The very same situation appeared in Baghdad, towards the end of the Abbasids period, just before the Mongols arrived; women in Baghdad competed for jobs traditionally held by men, such as clerks. The music and poetry became vulgar, says Glubb. When looking through Glubb’s lenses, one can see where the west is standing in the larger scheme of things and where the Afghanis are trying to go. It appears logical why the West should be afraid of the Afghanis and prevent them from rising to power.

A similar thesis is presented by Maulana Sayyid Abul A’ala Maududi in a speech titled “Nations Rise & Fall Why?” it is not a comprehensive study of the empires’ rise and fall like the one written by Glubb. Maulana Maududi, being a religious scholar makes one interesting point, he argues that the Almighty chooses the next successor to power based on a strict criterion, he gives the example of India. When the Mughal power became obsolete, it was time for a change. In Maulana Maududi’s opinion, the selection was done based on good versus evil.

As long as the Mughal were able to offer good to the people and benefited the people, they remained in power. When the balance shifted and the damage caused became more than the benefits, the Mughals were removed.

Maulana Maududi uses the example of the world being a garden, where we are its gardeners. As long as we look after the garden benignly, the job is ours. When we neglect our duties and are no longer benefiting the garden, the real owner will not hesitate to replace us with someone more suited to benefit the garden.

This same criterion was used to select the next rulers of India, in the aftermath of the Mughals’ demise. There were two other candidates for the power, apart from the British, but the British won. The reason was the British could bring something beneficial for the people that other local contenders could not. When the evil by the British began to overwhelm their goodness, it was time for the British to fold the British Raj and go home.

The Beginning
Glubb calculates that there are at least six stages, from the beginning to the end, that an empire goes through. The stages of the rise and fall of an empire are the following:

1. The Age of Pioneers (outburst)
This outburst of energy can be witnessed at the beginning of empires, e.g., when Mongols united under Genghis Khan as well as when Arabs of Makkah and Medina accepted Islam.
2. The Age of Conquests
Such outburst of energy always results in conquests and expansion.
3. The Age of Commerce
Conquest leads to commerce, trade deals, and business opportunities are sought in newfound colonies.
4. The Age of Affluence
As commerce increases so does wealth.
5. The Age of Intellect
As the wealth increases, the ruling elites with inclinations towards philanthropy promote education, building new universities and colleges in towns and cities.
6. The Age of Decadence.
The collapse itself is a long process. Glubb identifies several features that I will list below.

The decadence includes the following seven features according to Glubb:

1. Defensiveness
At this stage, there is a significant reduction in aggression. “The nation, immensely rich, is no longer interested in glory or duty, but is only anxious to retain its wealth and its luxury.
2. Pessimism
3. Materialism
4. Frivolity
“The heroes of declining nations are always the same – the athlete, the singer or the actor. The word ‘celebrity’ today is used to designate a comedian or a football player, not a statesman, a general, or a literary genius.” But for some strange reason, this phenomenon is not just British but rather a global one.
5. An influx of foreigners
These days a huge population of foreigners is residing in London. According to one estimate, 37% of the population living in London were born outside the UK. Baghdad of the tenth century was no different as citizens from every corner of the empire had migrated to live in Baghdad.
6. The Welfare State
7. A weakening of religion.

I confess I found Glubb’s thesis remarkably interesting. I agree with the main theory, regarding the stages. But there is one point which I disagree with, that is regarding ages of empire. He believed that on average every empire rules for 250 years. According to Wikipedia, the Abbasid Caliphate lasted 508 years, while the Ottoman Empire lasted 623 years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_empires).

Although I agree with his main thesis; but for me, Glubb’s description of decadence raises more questions than it answers. One of the most important questions is the current situation of the former British colonies, e.g., Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. These former colonies are passing through an age of decadence. However, I cannot identify their rise since independence, while I can see the decay.

There are two possible answers to the above question.

Scenario one
According to an intellectual friend Dr Fahad, Muslims have been passing through the age of decadence long before the British arrived, and this decadence has continued after the British left. This seems like a plausible explanation. Perhaps it was my myopia that led me to believe that Pakistan should be going through the same process and stages as described by Glubb.

Scenario Two
The second explanation is that the British ruled almost all over the world. Currently, the world is going through a global decadence, maybe this is linked to British rule. The problem with the British is that charlatans are in control of policymaking now. Brexit is a prime example. Spin-doctors running the show instead of real diplomats and politicians. If this is not the age of decadence then I do not know what is.

People are led to believe that Great Britain along with America is still in charge of the world, thinking that their militaries can subdue any country. Perhaps somebody should be asking whatever happened to the militaries of the Prussian Empire and Austro Hungarian Empire and even the Ottoman Empire.

Whence you start to believe in your own propaganda, things can only go downhill from thereon. Perhaps it is time for a reality check. Perhaps it is time for Restoring The Mind.

Stay blessed.

The question worth asking at this stage is, where shall we witness the next outburst of energy?

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By Khalid

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