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Times of Signs

One of the Prophet’s wife reports that once he woke up with a start from his sleep and said, “Glory to Allah, what of the treasures He has sent down, and what of the tribulations.” This hadith, which, when combined with a few others on the topic, held a prophecy for times immediately after him, as it does for times of our own. In fact, the Qur’an has a prophecy too, though not specifying the time, which comes close to fit our own times. We shall present it in a moment.

 But how many people heed the Prophet’s warning, or the Qur’anic forecast? Indeed, how many people are aware of the existence of any such warnings or forecasts? The disregard of the Muslims is just amazing; although, there is an explanation, as we shall presently see.

No less amazing is the heedlessness of the peoples of the world in general, generation after generation. They disregard not the heavenly warnings, but earthly warnings: those delivered by the very scientists they trust more than they trust their gods and priests. And, perhaps, this is where Muslims are one with them: in matters of trust.

That humankind is bound to run out of fossil fuel has never been a matter of dispute among the scientists, nor ever a secret. Way back in the 1940’s and 50’s they had first issued warnings about the dangers involved in dependence on fossil fuel. In fact, they had issued warnings against over-dependence on any sort of fuel explaining that any civilization that depends on fuel alone would come to a grinding halt with the disappearance of the fuel; no matter what fuel. (Muslim scholars had maintained that a civilization which depends on materials must disappear with the depletion of materials).

Given the fact that the earth is a small-sized planet, and that its land area is only one-third of its surface area, and that merciless utilization of its resources predicts doom, does not require much education to realize; but, only if the people would listen, and if they listen, take it any more serious than the day’s morning news.

That the fossil fuel is a gift of God, and that no other fuel can offer the same functions, does require some science to understand, but surely, not a degree in science. After all, any common man can see that motor cycles, cars, and tractors cannot run on nuclear fuel.

That wind power is too weak, hydropower risks water resources, and solar power expensive and unworkable in cold areas of the globe, do require some knowledge of science but that is not the problem. The problem is that even those with science degrees believe less in facts and figures than they believe in divine powers of science and scientists, who, they think, can solve any problem; given the time and resources.

Understandably, the scientists in turn (like the religious priests) take them for a ride. While these lines are being written, an aircraft is being flown for 7 days (as if one day was not enough), powered entirely by solar power. Its wing span is as wide as of a Jet and the whole length almost so, but it can generously accommodate only 2 men (although in this particular experiment, those two men are also missing because it is unmanned).

That, following scientific principles, solar batteries will have to be far larger in volume than the humans they are supposed to lift and fly with, and that the expensive car batteries are still so horrendous to maintain, despite being re-charged neatly, and, therefore, this so-called technological solar-flier is a good thing for sport, but not as replacement of a Jet powered by fossil fuel, does not require one to be a genius to assess. But love blinds.

This blind attitude of the people can be traced to love of the world. It is like a young man fallen in love with an ordinary woman. He is not ready to listen to any defect pointed out in her, but rather, every criticism only hardens his attitude. Similarly, people are not ready to listen to any problem that they can ever have with their beloved: this world. Such is the power of love.

First it was said about fossil and other fuels (William Darwin in The Next Millennium), that it will last no more than 500 years; and that wisdom demands that the returning “Bullock-cart Age” be pushed back by 500 years with the help of a rational consumption of this Nature’s gift that had been in the making for millions of years deep in the earth. But reason and wisdom are two ethereal substances that have always been known and recognized by their absence among the humans.

The 500 year prediction was made some 50-60 years ago. Then suddenly, 30 years later it became 200 years. The bull that was bolting away, suddenly turned around and gored its chasers. Should the prediction not have gone up to 1000 years, given the discoveries of thousands of new oil wells? No one cares to ask, because no one bothers, because the scientists will do the needful.

Any way, as if that bull-gored injury was not enough, 20 years later, in the year 2001, two hundred scientists gathered in UK to discuss alternative energy sources and space travel problems. It began with the stark statement that not 200, but 50 years of fossil fuel was left for mankind, and that for every 9 gallons of oil consumed over the globe, as much as 1 gallon of newest discoveries are made (also over the globe)!

The news did not stun the scientists in the conference hall because they had always known and discussed these issues. But it did not stun the general public because (apart from the love-syndrome) the corporate–controlled media wasn’t allowed to bring it to their notice. When it comes to the common people, the general understanding among the ruling class is: Let them just keep laboring.

Media is the most powerful tool not for education of the masses, but for de-education of the educated. The media can turn best of men into owls, incapable of seeing things visible in sunlight, staring around with their round eyes, circling their eye-balls, with tilted heads, staring, but seeing nothing, and if seeing, visualizing nothing. So, the educated were also saved from the displeasing figures at the London conference.

The 50 year fossil fuel stock life was based on simple calculation of known reserves versus consumption – plus of course, new likely discoveries. Nothing could be more unscientific. The rate of flow out of the wells, the rise in cost of extraction, the fall in investment pattern due to low-yield of discoveries, the ageing refineries, the drop in pressure in the wells, the massive amount of water that gave company to crude oil as it was pumped out (e.g. Ghawr wells) and so on, these so many vital factors were not taken into account. The result? Well, now in 2010, it is being predicted by the Oil Technologists that the peak of oil production is behind us by two years. That is, it happened in 2008. And that there is going to be 4% decline in oil production every year, which will begin to nose-dive any time from now leading to – in just about 10 years time – very serious industrial, hence economic, hence social, hence military, and hence political upheavals.

From 500 years to 10 years is a sharp nose-dive indeed. But how many of the 7 billion souls are aware of the horrors hidden in this statement? How many will hear and not sneer at this ‘silly’ talk? That this talk is not from horror fiction novels, but from scientists and experts, will make hardly any difference to them. For, their god, Science is alive, even if some of its noisy priests, the scientists, have become terror-mongers and doomsday forecasters.

Popular science of course plays the same role in the world, as the halwa-puri spiritualists in the Islamic world. They cut the common men from real science and give their followers a long lease of hope and mercy, putting their minds to sleep. (Meanwhile, let them labor for the privileged class).

Extraction of oil from Tar Sands of Canada, or Oil Shale in the American West, or reliance on bio-fuels as replacement for fossil fuel (petroleum) are, by now, popular science fiction stories. Leasing the masses on hope, fiction writers are bound by no law except those of their paycheck signees. They do not feel any obligation to inform the general public that more energy will be required to extract oil from them, than will be obtained either from tar sands or the oil shale.

As for bio-fuels; yes of course that is a good alternative source of energy after oil wells have dried up, but only if people can find another planet to plant bio-fuel crops. America for instance, will have to grow corn on 97% of its land, to make enough bio-fuel to meet with its petroleum requirements.

Coal? Ah coal. Many would remember the coal-powered industries of the 40’s when hundreds of chimneys spewed millions of cubic meters of coiling smoke into the pure atmosphere? Talk of pollution? Says an energy expert:

… a large scale switch to coal could produce such severe global warming that life on planet Earth would cease to exist. (Out of Gas: The End of the Oil Age, Dr. Goodstein).

Although new discoveries of oil reserves are quite rare, there are many who hope that if we kept searching, we are bound to hit the jackpot – so used they are to lottery. But, how much does mankind need to discover? Says Dr. Birol, another expert:

 Even if demand remained steady, the world would have to find the equivalent of four Saudi Arabias to maintain production, and six Saudi Arabias if it is to keep up with the expected increase in demand between now and 2030. (Warning: Oil supplies are running out fast: By Steve Connor).

 Here is a picture, if pictures will do.

 [Source: Life After the Oil Crash by Matthew David Savinar]

The Conference of 2001 was not discussing the commonly talked-of alternative energy sources: Tar Sands of Canada, Shale of American West, Solar Energy, Hydraulic Power, Coal, etc. They were not even discussing Nuclear Power, being aware that the world will need 10,000/= Nuclear Plants to meet some of its energy needs; while Uranium is running out and earthquakes are increasing in frequency. They were there to discuss developments in the front line science and the cutting-edge technologies.

Papers were presented on methods to turn off Gravity to achieve Levitation, Inertia-control promising movement of huge volumes with little force, newest cost-free, pollution-free, nuclear fission techniques, and so on.

One of the most promising and exciting agenda was how to extract energy from Zero Point Field. If it could be achieved, it promised endless supply of energy from virtually nothing, since the source would be vacuum. It was being said that vacuum holds (of course, quite mysteriously) so much energy as no other energy supply can match; only if science knew how to extract it. If it could be pulled off, trillions of miles of deep space travel would be as frequent as aircrafts shuttling over continents. Such exciting ideas were also discussed as ways of distorting the space-time curve behind a spaceship by expanding it, and doing the reverse at its front, that is, distort space-time by contracting it at the front of the spaceship. If that could be achieved men could fly off to distant stars at the cost of a housefly’s breakfast.

All of these ideas had big “ifs” before them. But, sadly, over the years the “ifs” did not yield their obstinate place by even an inch. After all, the universe does not run on desires. Until now, 10 years later, ideas discussed in the 2001 Conference have remained ideas on paper. In fact, quite a few would say that those were weird ideas expressed in scientific jargon. Is that where the charismatic power of science ends?

All said, the fact remained: If oil is gone, there is no other satisfactory source of energy that can perform the same functions; and oil is depleting fast. Consequently, a plethora of articles have begun appearing on the only free media now available, the Internet, warning of the serious, very serious, consequences of the evaporation of oil. Mankind must learn to live without it. But how? Someone used the word that was used in the 50’s: Stone Age.

So, herein is the dilemma. There is decline in oil production. The decline will remain unless consumption is cut down, and cut down drastically. In the meanwhile, the world has suffered setbacks in economic activity. Markets are in slump. In America and Europe, hundreds of millions of men and women are either unemployed or underemployed. Recovery is slow and is staggered. If the economy is given a push (and a push it doesn’t seem to accept, but, just to assume), and the Western economy warms up (it will never heat up, that’s for sure), it will mean increase in oil consumption. But production at most of the large-scale oil fields being already in decline, higher demand and lower production would push the prices up. The economic recovery will be hard hit in its belly. The next slump in economy will give rise to higher unemployment. Riots in America? Wait and see how prisons are filled.

The American hungry will need an enemy to loose their anger on. While radical political policies will be adopted through democratic processes (Hitler was also democratically elected), the anger will be directed against not those “who hate us,” or, “who envy us” but those who are “a threat to world peace” and those, “who manipulate oil prices” by which they will mean not the oil companies (which they own anyway), but the oil producers.

One of the consequences would be abandonment of the pretentions of civilization that the West wore on its face since World War II. (Since this veil is not out of conviction, it is getting too hot inside). Iraq was one unveiling. Afghanistan is another. “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (the famous WMD cock-n-bull story) was one successful effort to “manufacture consent for war,” Iran’s “nuclear ambitions” is another WMD.

The military actions of today were planned by the American Foreign Policy, the Defense Establishment, the Arms manufactures, the CIA, the Corporate Sector, the Bible Thumpers and the Torah Savants, 40 years ago – right after 1967. Hasn’t CIA been warning the American governments all along about the catastrophe hidden in the Peak Oil situation? Invasion of oil and mineral rich states, and a final effort at complete control of their resources (at present it is only partial) will be one option that will be discussed oftener in the West than it was discussed in the past.

If the West fanatically chooses the path envisaged above, it will mean – surely not a Third World War (because the world does not want it) – but huge devastations. The fragile globalized economy will be knocked off the track. Progress will come to a complete halt. Mass hunger, newer diseases, and failure of food transport could mean death of hundreds of millions.

But, since the blueprints of war have taken into account decimation of hundreds of millions as the necessary cost, could that situation be the one portrayed in the Qur’an?

Indeed, the similarity of the life of the world is like water that We sent down from the heaven. The vegetation of the earth mingled with it (to bring forth) what people and cattle consume, till, when the earth had taken on its glitter, it became enchanting, and its inhabitants thought that they enjoyed complete control over it, Our command came upon it, by night or by day; and We turned it into (the like of) mowed down harvest, as though it had not flourished just yesterday. That is how We turn about the signs for a people who reflect. (10: 24)

What was built on lies promises to collapse on a million-ton rubble of lies; but should it happen in our times? Bible Thumpers and Torah Savants will say yes. Muslims are taught to say no. But they do not matter any more. When they discarded the Khilafah, they wrote their own script of destruction. So, in these hard times, each individual should take precautionary measures for itself and be prepared for the worst (and worst is what the West can do at best, before it extinguishes). Muslim attitude should be on the lines suggested in the hadith incompletely quoted above. It says in completion, that the Prophet said,

“Glory to Allah, what of the treasures He has sent down, and what of the tribulations! Who will wake up the inhabitants of these quarters (meaning his wives)? Many well-covered in this world will be naked in the Hereafter.”

Muslims need to wake up to the newest realities. At best the chaos can be pushed back. But it cannot be escaped altogether. Not only do they need to take care of themselves, but should also have a master plan for the relief of the huge masses who will be affected. Taking care of the hungry and the naked, at that time of chaos and, perhaps, breakdown of law and order, would be an obligation on them. They lost their political leadership. Will they ignore the chances of regaining their moral and spiritual leadership?

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