My dear Muhammad Ali: People responded so positively to the portion of Mr Altaf Gauhar's essay The Collapse of Western Institutions that I reproduced last week, and so many asked me to reproduce other relevant portions of it, that I have decided to share what he wrote about secular society. But first let me explain. The word 'secular' is not some kind of frightening satanic mantra. Its Urdu translation, La Deeniat, which mean no belief i.e. atheism is totally, and I dare say deliberately, wrong. A secular person can be very religious and a secular state can allow freedom of religion. The dictionary meaning of the word 'secular' is 'temporal' or 'worldly'. Unfortunately, the western definition of 'secularism' got narrowed down to 'separation of church from state' in reaction to clerics less concerned with God and more with playing politics and thus constantly interfering in affairs of state. Since there is no concept of a church or clergy in Islam, the question becomes irrelevant. Years ago I read in Muhammad Asad's autobiography that secularism is inherent in Islam. The next day I asked my father what he meant. He said that Asad was right. Since 'secular' means 'temporal' or 'worldly' - that which has to do with this life in this temporary world - and since Islam is a way or code of life, it is inherently both spiritual and secular. 'Spiritual', 'belief', 'faith' are not to be confused with religion, which is largely a collection of rituals, customs and dogma organised under an institution called a 'church' and run by a bureaucracy called 'clergy'. It can be argued thus - and I am saying this, not Mr Altaf Gauhar - that there is need to separate the state from the obscurant epitomised by the half-baked scholar who memorises but does not think and has become a self-appointed de facto cleric. That has nothing to do with separating the state from the Word of God as stated in the Holy Quran. The section of Altaf Gauhar's essay below - Material Growth and its Effects - is more pertinent today than when it was written 35 years ago and explains what the blind and avaricious pursuit of material gain has done to western societies. "The ideal of secular society was material advancement of mankind and it must be admitted that this ideal has been vigorously pursued, and substantially achieved, by the industrialised countries of the West. The consequences of material advancement are now overtaking the West. Today, the devotees of development find themselves perched on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand growth that was to usher in the millennium has created disturbing side effects. On the other hand, any decline in growth is bound to bring about an inevitable deterioration in the quality of life. If growth continues at its present rate there is a possibility of disastrous deterioration in the material conditions of existence. Robert Heilbroner considers this problem in a recent book. [An Enquiry into the Human Prospects by Robert L Heilbroner, W W Norton and Company, Inc, New York, 1974]. He begins by stating that the present malaise in American society reflects "the inability of a civilisation directed to material improvement, higher incomes, better diets, miracles of medicine, triumph of applied physics and chemistry - to satisfy the human spirit." The values of an industrial civilisation have lost "their self-evident justification." The continuation of growth has become a threat to existence because of (a) the population explosion, (b) the alarming capacity of destruction acquired by man and the inevitability of wars of re-distribution which would be launched by the underdeveloped countries, and (c) the absolute limit of the ability of the earth to support the present process of industrial activity. It is this last point that he proceeds to investigate in detail. "The ability of the earth to sustain the present industrial activity, at its current rate of growth, is limited by world resources and the tolerance of the ecosphere for the absorption of heat. The atmosphere receives heat from two sources, the heat that enters from the sun or the earth and, the heat we add to the natural and unalterable flow of the energy by manmade heat producing activities. The present emission of energy is about I/15000 of the absorbed solar flux but if the present rate of growth countries for another two hundred and fifty years emissions would reach 100 percent of the absorbed solar flux. The resulting increase of the earth's temperature would be about 500C - a condition totally unsuitable for human habitation." The secular society cannot look beyond two hundred and fifty years, if industrial activity continues to grow at its present rate.  The secular man would make the atmosphere too hot for himself. Industrialism, socialism and communism are all instruments of growth evolved by the secularists. There is one common feature between capitalism and communism - both are committed to 'productive virtuosity'. Robert Heilbroner considers whether a change is possible within the two socio-economic systems that are the pillars of secular ideology. He examines various elements, viz. political power, the cult of personality, the availability of force and the total preoccupation of man under these systems with the present and concludes that a peaceful orientation of lifestyles is not possible mainly because the secular man has lost his collective bond of identity with the future generation and he forecasts convulsive change which will be forced upon secular society by external events. "These events have already made an impact on western society. The God of growth has been laid low by the devil of inflation. While the major international security issues of the last quarter century are still with us - the competition in strategic nuclear arms, the struggle of differing political systems, the confrontation of massively armed allies in Europe, the menace of great power involvement in local conflicts - these are now being over-shadowed by the risk that the operation of the international economy may spin out of control. For if this happens there will be no graver threat to international stability, to the survival of western democratic forms of government, and to national security itself." [Walter F Mondale, Foreign Affairs, vol. 53, October 1974]. Western economists have been carefully measuring the strides of inflation. By August 1974 it was 18 percent in Great Britain, 20 percent in Italy, 15 percent in France, 25 percent in Japan and 10 percent in USA. It is estimated that the oil bill will contribute twenty billion dollars to European balance of payments deficits. The whole of the west is protesting against the use of oil as a political weapon and threatening retaliation against what they describe as economic aggression. Celebrated economists talk glibly of stagflation and 'slumpflation'. For more than three centuries the industrial west has been buying raw materials from its colonies at prices that forced millions of people to accept sub-human levels of existence. Wages were kept down in the colonies to ensure an uninterrupted supply of cheap labour. Now, at the first sign of the third and the fourth world venturing to ask for a reasonable price for their oil, bauxite and copper, the whole of the industrial world has worked itself up into a state of righteous indignation. President Ford talks of "securing, if necessary by force, the world's natural resources." The West General Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said in a NATO meeting that, "inflation and the necessarily following recession pose the greatest threat to the foundation of Western society." That inflation should injure the economists of the West is understandable. What is difficult to understand is how it has become an insult to their innocence. Since they have studied the causes of inflation and stagflation in so many countries under their control they must be familiar with the operations of the market forces If moral considerations were not relevant when they had the developing countries and their resources under their control, how have they become of paramount importance now? The meetings of the GATT and the endless Kennedy rounds provide enough evidence of the amused indifference with which the pathetic pleadings of the poor countries were received by their rich masters. "My purpose here is limited to pointing out that the secular system based on economic growth is disintegrating. The rise in prices is not just a threat to economic prosperity. It has turned into 'the greater threat to the civilisation of Western society'. This is conclusive proof of what I am trying to suggest, that the Western civilisation has equated itself with the money market. The secular politicians have dropped their guard of moral principles. They admit that prices occupy a pivotal position in the western way of life and if prices cannot be controlled the West must face extinction. The secular morality, whatever its specifications, cannot survive in a state of inflation. It was good to talk about principles and ethical values when prices were under control and production was touching optimum levels (at the cost of others) but now when the others had started asking for their share of the material world morality was becoming a nuisance. Morality was good investment when dividend vouchers were drawn in favour of the West. It was now becoming a threat to western civilisation. And the only answer to this threat that the West has been able to discover, so far, is to revalue its gold reserves" The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: humayun.gauhar@gmail.com