THE CONTEMPORARY SITUATION
Practically every introductory book on Islam provides details of the historical unfolding of the Islamic community and its situation in the modern period. There are far more studies of contemporary political events in Muslim countries than there are of classical Islamic civilization or Islam's religious teachings. Our purpose here is not to repeat what others have said or to describe the modern scene from within a framework that makes sense to contemporary sensibilities. Rather, we will try to throw light on how history can be read as signs from the perspective of a world view still dominated by tawhid. What, in short, does Islam's vision of itself tell us about contemporary history?
Until recently, most Westerners simply took it for granted that progress was a fact of human existence, and that the non-Western world would have to follow on the heels of the West to survive in the modern world. Given the events of the twentieth century, more and more reflective people have come to doubt whether progress is indeed an intrinsic good. Many people now ask if the course of technological development pursued by Western society was a wise choice. Scientists in all sorts of