Saudi intellectual: Arabs block civilization

Ibrahim Albleahy says historical Arab thoughts or achievements were actually taken from the Greeks

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran - Al Arabiya
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Considered as one of Saudi Arabia’s most liberal writers, Ibrahim Albleahy once said that Arabs have not contributed anything to modern civilization. He said that any historical Arab thoughts or achievements were actually taken from the Greeks.

In an in-depth interview with Al Arabiya’s Fahad al-Shoqiran, Albleahy blames the failure of Arab societies to develop and innovate on their refusal to learn from other civilizations or to criticize the principles of their own society.

Aside from his role in Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council, Albleahy is involved in a variety of organizations in Saudi civil society. He has also written a book titled The Qualitative Changes in Human Civilization.

Below is an edited version of al-Shoqiran’s interview with Albleahy.

Albleahy: In my childhood, I recognized that there was a huge gap not only between us as Arabs and Muslims, but between all the nations on the one hand, and the West on the other.

The West, and no one else, is the architect of this eminent civilization that is qualitatively different from everything that humanity has known throughout history. The evolvement of the nations that tagged along was proportional to what they were inspired by from the West, hence, I yearned to explore the dynamics that facilitated the West’s advancement and kept other nations lagging behind.

I’ve always read and heard about our ancestor’s great accomplishments with which the West inspired their civilization. Eagerly, I started investigating to clear up my ambiguity about various allegations. After years of comprehensive research, I’ve concluded that we Arabs have always been advocates of faith, which is great.

Religion is fundamental to human beings and should never be looked at as stumbling block in the way of progress, development and prosperity. This was a traumatic finding - to recognize that we did not contribute toward world development, we did not enrich human civilization and to find that those intellectual achievements and scientific accomplishments that are attributed to us are made by individuals coached and influenced by Greek culture.

إبراهيم البليهي
إبراهيم البليهي

Some of those who took from the Greeks were Arabs who we considered as giants like Ibn Rushd, Ibn al-Haytham, Ibn Nafis, al-Razi, Ibn Sina, al-Farabi, Ibn Hayyan and others.

It was such a painful realization, I’m annoyed by all the deceit and fraudulence that passed on between generations, in stark contrast to the Arab reality in the past and the present.

As a result of my comprehensive research, I’ve found that European history is also an extension of Greek and Roman history. The Creek culture is characterized by impartiality, liberalism and diversity in addition to the philosophical notion. The philosophical notion, specifically critical philosophy, was the foundation of the West’s distinct nature, that is what enabled the block to develop into a knowledge manufacturer and not just a repeater of its predecessor’s findings.

Albleahy: If you listen to the national and international news you will have realized that we have turned into an obstacle to humanity’s civilization. All our news is about killing, bombing, massacres, mass graves and irrational rampancy amid the absolute confidence of some that they are the exclusive believers while the rest are the devil’s followers.

Looking closer at the values that prevailed in Greece during the 5th century BC, as well as the history of the Romans during the first prosperous era, there were sharp declines reflected on the citizens their values, rights, freedoms and dignity, as well as the ruling model of the dominance of the absolute individuals. All these marginalized individuals to no value.

It was such a painful realization, I’m annoyed by all the deceit and fraudulence that passed on between generations, in stark contrast to the Arab reality in the past and the present.

Ibrahim Albleahy

As for Arab history, since the end of the caliphate era, overly authoritarian governance dominated in unprecedented patterns. Prior to that period, nations were run by governing assembles similar to parliaments, the Roman governors’ terms in office were set within a certain time frame and power, similar to democratic nations. Governors held the titles of chancellors, exactly like in Germany now. What differentiates an advanced society from a backward one is the governing model, it is the driving force of the societal locomotive.

Al Arabiya: For almost half a century, you have been concerned and distressed by the Arabs’ and the Muslims’ dilemma, some regard you as a cynical and critical of the advocates of nationalism beside being apathetic to Arab issues.

Albleahy: My writings have always been critical of all human beings and all cultures. Two decades ago, my criticism was directed toward Arabic culture and not toward the Arabs, it is my conviction that their culture is neither viable nor changeable. Then, I realized that people in all nations are still living in false states of consciousness, the variation between developed and undeveloped societies is not due to people’s awareness, but determined by the direction of the society’s movement and the type of prevailing cultural and political model. Therefore, my intellectual project is generated from an absolute humanitarian vision. I do not analyze the Arab mindset solely, but that of all human beings.

Al Arabiya: You criticized institutions and their association to culture, what role do you believe they can play in guiding cultures away from rigidity?

Albleahy: At the international level, scathing criticism should be directed toward UNESCO for its contributing role in maintaining closed cultures within the ignorance echelon. Protecting underdeveloped fortresses and confirming equality between all cultures and the continuation of cultural dissonance means fossilized cultures remain rigid.

*This interview was originally published in Arabic on

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