I wanted to say a few words about a subject which I suspect is not often discussed on occasions like this - the importance of the sacred in the modern world.
During the last three centuries the Western world has seen the growth of a damaging division in the way in which we see and understand the world around us. Science has tried to assume a monopoly - or rather a tyranny - over our understanding of the world around us. Religion and science have become separated, and science has attempted to separate the natural world from God, with the result that it has fragmented the cosmos and placed the sacred into a separate, and secondary, compartment of our understanding, divorced from the practical day-to-day world of man.
We are only now beginning to understand the disastrous results of this outlook. The Western world has lost a sense of the wholeness of our environment, and of our inalienable responsibility for the whole of creation. This has led to an increasing failure to appreciate or understand tradition and the wisdom of our forebears accumulated over the centuries.
But what is it about tradition and traditional values that, at the mere mention of these words, normally intelligent people go into paroxysms of rage and indignation - even vilification? Is it because they feel threatened? It is as if tradition represented the enemy of man's lofty ambition; the "primitive" force which acts as an unwelcome reminder - deep in our subconscious - of the ultimate folly of believing that the purpose and meaning of life on this Earth lie in creating a material form of Utopia - a world in which technology becomes a "virtual reality" God; the arbiter of virtual reality ethics - and thus the eventual murderer of the Soul of Mankind. To my mind, tradition is not a man-made element in our lives - it is a God-given awareness of the natural rhythms and of the fundamental harmony engendered by a union of the paradoxical opposites in every aspect of nature. Tradition reflects the timeless order, and yet disorder, of the cosmos and anchors us into a harmonious relationship with the great mysteries of the Universe. Some scientists claim to have discovered the origins of the Universe and explain it all quite confidently in terms of a "Big Bang". If it was a big bang, then I suggest it was a controlled explosion!
Likewise, I believe that man is much more than just a biological phenomenon resting on the "bottom line" of the great balance sheet of life where art and culture are increasingly in danger of becoming optional extras in life - so contrary to the Muslim craftsman or artist's traditional outlook which was never concerned with display for its own sake, nor with progressing ever forward in his own ingenuity, but was content to submit his craft to God. While appreciating that this essential innocence has been destroyed, I do believe that the survival of civilised values, as we have inherited them from our ancestors, depends on the corresponding survival in our hearts of that profound sense of the sacred.
Let me give you three examples. Whatever the scientists may say, the disjunction between religion and science, between the material world and a sense of the sacred, has important practical consequences for our everyday lives.
In Medicine it has led to a one-sided and largely materialist approach to healthcare, and a failure to understand the wholeness of the healing process. Hospitals need to be designed, for instance, to reflect the wholeness of healing if they are to help the process of recovery in a more complete way. And modern medicine is too often a one-dimensional approach to illness which, however sophisticated, can still benefit from the help of more traditional approaches.
Our Environment has suffered beyond our worst nightmares, in part because of a one-sided approach to economic development which, until recently, failed to take account of the inter-relatedness of creation, and the importance of finding a sustainable balance working within the grain of nature and understanding the necessity of limits. This, for example, is why protection of our environment is such a relatively recent concern; and why organic and sustainable farming are so important if we are to use the land in a way which will safeguard its ability to nourish future generations.
A third area in which this separation of the material and spiritual has had dramatic consequences is architecture. I believe this separation lies at the heart of the failure of so much modern architecture to understand the essential spiritual quality and the traditions from which they want to live. Titus Buckhardt wrote: "It is the nature of art to rejoice the soul, but not every art possesses a spiritual dimension". We see this so clearly in the intricate geometric and arabesque patterns of Islamic art and architecture which are all ultimately a manifestation of Divine Unity - the central message of the Qur'an. After all, the Prophet himself said - "God is beautiful and He loves beauty".
Look at urban planning. Ibn Khaldun, the great historian, understood that the intimate relationship between city life and tranquility was an essential basis for civilised and spiritual life. Can we ever again return to such harmony? As civilisations decay, so do the crafts, as Ibn Khaldun again wrote.
I believe all these principles come down in the end to a battle for preserving civilised values. It is a battle which defines the work of my Institute of Architecture. It is a battle to restore an understanding of the spiritual integrity of our lives, and for reintegrating what the modern world has fragmented. The Islamic world has preserved this integrated spiritual view of the world around us to a degree we have not managed in the West. There is much for us to learn from Islam in this respect - and I have mentioned this in a speech I gave in Oxford three years ago, entitled 'Islam and the West'. I believe strongly that a world in which science and religion form an integrated part of a common understanding of our world will be better balanced, wiser and more civilised.
I do so hope that you, as people who operate in the very modern world of business and finance, will use your influence to help overcome this misunderstanding, and promote the important principle of wholeness which Islam can still teach us in the West. It is one way in which we can help that process of understanding and tolerance between the Western and Islamic worlds which will remain of such importance to our common future."