Extract from a speech delivered by Marmaduke Pickthall in Madras,
India in 1927:-
"The Muslim empire revived after the attack of Genghis Khan and even made fresh progress. A progress so remarkable that once more it threatened Europe as a whole, and so aroused the old crusading animosity in modern dress, which was the secondary reason of its downfall. I say the secondary reason for the main reason for the downfall must be sought in the Shari'ah, among those natural laws which must always control the rise and fall of nations.
The empire was apparently progressing but it was progressing on the wave of a bygone impulse. The Ulama who sought knowledge "even though it were in China" were no more. In their place stood men bearing the same high name of Ulama claiming the same reverence, but who sought knowledge only in a limited area, the area of Islam as they conceived it - not the world-wide, liberating and light-giving religion of the Qur'an and the Prophet, but an Islam as narrow and hidebound as religion always will become when it admits the shadow of a man between man's mind and God.
Islam, the religion of free thought, the religion which once seemed to have banished priestly superstition and enslavement of men's minds to other men, forever from the lands to which it came, had become - God forgive us! - priest-ridden.
The pursuit of natural science had already been abandoned. All knowledge coming from without was reckoned impious. For was it not the knowledge of mere infidels? Whereas the practice of the early Muslims was to seek knowledge even unto China, even though it were the knowledge of a heathen race. The growth of pride accompanied the cult of ignorance.
The Christian nations, which had been moved to the pursuit of science by the example of the Muslims, had advanced materially just as the Muslims had advanced materially so long as they obeyed that portion of the Shari'ah or Sacred Law which proclaims freedom of thought and exhorts the pursuit of knowledge and the study of God's creation. The Christian nations threw off the narrow shackles of ecclesiasticism and espoused free thought, and their advance in the material field was as surprising in its way as were the conquests of the early Muslims in their way."