Educate, In Hope of Revival
Section I: Introduction
Charity begins at home. And Muslims today are in much need of charity. They need to give and receive within their own circles.
The current state of affairs in the world will reveal how miserable Muslims, as a nation, are today. They are not united, they are not progressing well, and they are attracting bad impressions from others. As a result, not many people are willing to acknowledge Islam as a religion that promotes peace, prosperity, development, advancement or a plausible means of governance and economic activity. The on-lookers purport that following the Shar’iah amounts to stagnation, and strict adherence to faith results in either fatalism or fanaticism. The Ummah is in need of changing these views – not to prove a point, but to help themselves, because, indeed, the Muslim world is stagnating and the common man is in ignorance.
In addition to the Muslim intelligentsia, the average Muslim too has his work cut out for him. To toil in that direction requires us to determine ways in which we can go about achieving our aims and objectives as members of the Islamic world. We have to analyze the causes behind the contemporary circumstances engulfing the Muslims.
In section II, we will start off by bringing to notice, the exemplary ways in which the Muslim world, in general, and the common Muslim, in particular, acquired success and prosperity, and then, let it all slip away. Section III decides upon the reasons behind our current state of affairs, and Section IV suggests what needs to be done. Section V will conclude.
Section II: Tracing the Rise and Fall of Muslim Prosperity
The Muslim World
When our dear Prophet Muhammad, sws, established an Islamic state in Medina, it was a miracle of sorts. Here was a man, simple and straight, with no ulterior motives than to please his Lord, in power and yet, bowed in humbleness. He was an example for all around him – in matters of faith as well as in matters of everyday significance. His companions took plenty notes from his book and undoubtedly followed suit. Once light had been shown to them, they had the eagerness to learn. Indeed, in the words of the Qur’an, they found in Prophet Muhammad sws, ‘the best example’. He was the symbol of piety, love, righteousness and everything good. They put aside their biases to learn, and they brought in their arguments to debate and to arrive at the most sensible and honorable conclusion. They were not easily riddled by strategic incitements instigated by circles hostile to Islam. Rather, they were insightful regarding all that they were confronted with. In short, there was confidence in the leader, because he was exemplary, honest and truthful. He shared their integrity, and they themselves were united and dependable, sharing a common concern. Indeed, their true strength was not to be found in numbers, but in the intensity of faith in Allah as well as in each other, coupled with sincerity in commitment. On the other hand, the Muslim world today is heading towards disaster. The emphasis amongst Muslims has shifted in a way that faith is unable to transcend the physical realm of our existence and enter our minds and souls. We are now indeed much greater in number than we were ever before but totally devoid of faith. Unlike our honourable ancestors, we have chosen a different path – that of ignorance – both in terms of religious as well as worldly knowledge. The Qur’an clearly seems to suggest that the two are bound together almost as if one without the other is incomplete.
The knowledge of religion inspires knowledge of worldly sciences. Indeed, the Qur’an refers to the ‘men of understanding’ as those who acknowledge the signs of Allah. They would clearly benefit, thus. Firstly, by striving in accordance with the workings of the universe for a prosperous and illuminated worldly life, and secondly, by establishing strong faith in Allah such that their Hereafter will be prosperous as well.
It is He Who sends down rain from the sky. From it, ye drink, and out of it (grows) the vegetation on which ye feed your cattle. With it He produces for you corn, olives, date palms, grapes, and every kind of fruit: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought. He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the Sun and the Moon; and the Stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are signs for men who are wise. And the things on this earth which He has multiplied in varying colours (and qualities): verily in this is a Sign for men who celebrate the praises of Allah (in gratitude). It is He Who has made the sea subject, that ye may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender, and that ye may extract therefrom ornaments to wear, and thou seest the ships therein that plough the waves, that ye may seek (thus) of the bounty of Allah and that ye may be grateful. And He has set up on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and rivers and roads; that ye may guide yourselves. And marks and signposts; and by the stars (men) guide themselves. [Qur’an 16:10-16]
Reinforcing the points mentioned above, it would be helpful to ask: How are the praises of Allah celebrated, and how is gratitude addressed to him? Certainly, by acknowledging the Almighty on the end, and by extracting the best out of the earth that is at man’s disposal, on the other. Nonetheless, in that pursuit, a Muslim must not lose sight of the ultimate objective – seeking the pleasure of Allah.
Narrated Abu Hurayrah:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: If anyone acquires knowledge of things by which Allah's good pleasure is sought, but acquires it only to get some worldly advantage, he will not experience the arf, i.e. the odour, of Paradise. [Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 25, Number 3656]
Bringing these teachings and stimuli, into the modern man’s perspective, we will discover, as we move forward along the timeline, how everyday life becomes more and more demanding. With every passing phase, life becomes more complex in the sense that it allows man to either stumble upon or to consciously discover new phenomena and substance. Historically, acquisition of knowledge has remained closely linked more to the notion of survival than to the idea of comfort. For instance, even the hunter-gatherers had to know which berries were edible, which were poisonous and which others had healing powers. Then, the man with the better tools hunted well and got the better of things. Subsequently, the nature of this worldly knowledge changed and its mass increased as well but the underlying idea remained firmly in place. That has been the natural trend of time. If attended to properly, vis-à-vis a keen human mind and a passionate desire to exploit what God has placed at man’s disposal, he is eventually paid off with lots of convenience, advancement and knowhow. Early Muslims were up to the task. They sought to enhance faith through knowledge, and to live with ever-increasing comfort.
When men stand united with the urge to develop on and utilize resources in the best, most ethical ways, the society gains. If we look around ourselves, we will discover how all things function according to God’s plans: the sun rises in the morning from the East, and sets in the evening into the West, the season of spring adorns the beauty of green and sundry, the winters inevitably invite one to appreciate the snow white caps on beautifully peaking mountains, and so on. Observation of such intricate and united workings of nature will inevitably lead man to discover the greatness of his Lord, which was, is and will remain unparalleled. Observation leads to discovery, and discovery leads to thanking Allah. One must not forget that in Islam, knowledge serves two very important purposes, owing to which, it cannot be secularized in absolution: firstly, it leads to expressions of gratitude addressed to the Almighty, and secondly, it creates a blissful society.
“Have they not looked at the camel-how it was created? And at the sky-how it was raised up? And at the mountains-how they were embedded? And at the earth-how it is spread out? So remind them! You are only a reminder.” (Qur'an, 88:17-21)
Such familiarization with, and passion inspired by, nature help man discover – or re-discover – faith, with the result that he makes best use of all things authorized. On the other hand, if that bond is neglected, the workings of nature continue – the sun rises and sets as per the grand plan – but we dwell into darkness regardless.
Being briefly specific, we will discover how well Muslims fared in the early centuries; how they played important and significant roles in all possible fields of life and sciences.
During the first thirteen years following the advent of our dear prophet, Muslims went through trials and tribulations of sorts. Following that crucial phase, they tasted success. The religion of Islam had an extra-ordinary amount of worldly success. We had the might of the four “righteous caliphs”, following which, hurdles were surpassed to establish Muslim dominance in the world – the east, and the west, save for northern Europe that was, at the time, inflicted by the Dark Ages.
The Muslim might was not isolated in its rule; rather, it was demonstrated through various advancements in the field of science, arts, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, agriculture, algebra, arithmetic, physics, geography, medicine, botany, zoology, chemistry, etc. This, it would not be wrong to assume, owed much to the Qur’an’s insistence on observing and exploiting all that God had placed at man’s disposal. Such was the intellectual development that fashioned the Muslim civilization developed in Andalus and Baghdad over several hundred years.
Then, came the two “falls”: the fall of Cordoba, which sent ripples down the Muslim world, and within a hundred years, the Muslim heartland at Baghdad was defeated. Yet, Muslim energies were re-grouped. Why? Because they had strength: the strength of material, faith and knowledge. In 1258 AC, the Mongols took over Baghdad, but their takeover phased out towards the re-invigoration of Islam. They themselves became Muslim. However, the great jolt was yet to transpire. Napolean defeated the fighting Mamluks and the Muslim world was sent into a trauma, much like many adherents of Islam feel today. They began asking, in confusion, in hope, in bewilderment, in shock: “We are Muslims. How could this have happened? We have been the saviours of God’s religion? We were the defenders of the One Truth? How could this happen to us?”
Amid utter chaos and anarchy - if not without, then definitely within – colonialism saw an upsurge and established itself as the new world order – the new grounds for determining who crushes the balance of power in the favour of the self. Clearly, Muslims, coming from an affluent era, were crushed to a state wherein they could not even compete. They felt helpless, much like the circumstances that engulf the Muslim world today.
People, especially, the Muslim scholars began presenting various reasons in hope of understanding the causes for the demise of material superiority. A hadith read:
“There will come a time in which great nations of the West will attack my Ummah, and eat from them as if people from a plate of food.”
Thus, it was argued, what had happened, was bound to happen, no matter what. Delving into the prophecies of the Qur’an and the hadith can be helpful at times, but it seems as though it can be harmful as well. I must emphasise here that by ‘harmful’, I do not at all mean to convey the thought that the Qur’an, the Sunnah or the hadith need to be approached sparingly. Rather, what it is essentially meant to suggest is that with a biased and impressionable human intellect and limited hindsight and foresight, we can ascribe a happening to a prophecy so dominantly, that actions and prayers lose significance. As a result, we end up telling ourselves that “this” was bound to happen, “such and such” will follow, and therefore, we cannot do much about it.
It was, perhaps, keeping this danger in mind, that several other Muslim scholars proclaimed such an approach as defeatist. Instead, they said, that the downfall of the Muslims owed itself to abandonment of tradition - that is, the Qur’an inspired tradition of delving into research and development. Letting go off such missions meant that we fell short of the technological superiority of the foreigners. Of course, this does not mean that all is dependant on the material strength of a nation. Rather, it implies that Muslims lacked the will to act and to exploit the God-given resources, they were gradually deteriorating after having attained much, and were paying no more heed to the call of the Qur’an. Thus, with time, the Muslim world went into ignominy after ignominy.
Much later, a group of 19th century scholars declared that Muslims were treading the wrong path. How? Here is a gist of what was suggested:
Imam Al-Ghazali’s offering in the 6th century came forward and appealed to the Muslims. It placed emphasis on the “spirituality” of man. His philosophy was widely accepted in the Muslim world. On the contrary, Ibn Rushd’s invitation to rationality was rejected by our people, while gaining much recognition in the Western world. So as Muslims abandoned the rational model in acceptance of the spiritual, the Christians began ascending as per the call to rationality, after abandoning the world for so long. The Muslim world felt more and more need for reform. A need that inspired secularization of Islam, as Muslims became more and more embarrassed of their spiritual tradition, say, for example, of their belief in the miracles of saints, etc.
More evolution followed. A French writer, Roy Olivier suggested how more radical secularization set into the Muslim elite. In an attempt to deal with the rise of colonialism, Muslims began to gain impressions from socialism and communism, re-conciling them with religiosity. Traditions were re-interpreted to suggest that the prophet himself was communist. This helped settle the Muslims’ unsettled psyche, for it was easier to be “oppressed for the sake of God” than to be oppressed otherwise.
The Common Man
MuslimHeritage.com reveals many amazing instances of creativity, development and exploitation that Muslim history is filled with. Following are just a few references:
a) The Agricultural System developed by early Muslims:
“As early as the ninth century, a modern agricultural system became central to economic life and organization in the Muslim land. The great Islamic cities of the Near East, North Africa and Spain, Artz explains, were supported by an elaborate agricultural system that included extensive irrigation and an expert knowledge of the most advanced agricultural methods in the world. The Muslims reared the finest horses and sheep and cultivated the best orchards and vegetable gardens. They knew how to fight insect pests, how to use fertilizers, and they were experts at grafting trees and crossing plants to produce new varieties.”
b) The Irrigation system developed by Early Muslims:
“Water, so precious a commodity in a more Islamically aware age, was managed according to stringent rules, any waste of the resource banned, and the most severe economy enforced.
Thus, in the Algerian Sahara various water management techniques were used to make the most effective use of the resource. The Foggaras, a network of underground galleries, conducted water from one place to the other over very long distances so as to avoid evaporation.
Although the system is still in use today, the tendency at present is for over-use and waste of water.”
c) Libraries developed by Early Muslims:
“We hear of a private library in Baghdad, as early as the ninth century, that required a hundred and twenty camels to move it from one place to another. Another scholar of Baghdad refused to accept a position elsewhere because it would take four hundred camels to transport his books; the catalogue of this private library filled ten volumes. This is the more astonishing when it is realized that the library of the king of France in 1300 had only about four hundred titles. In the thirteenth century, before the Tartars sacked the city (1258), Baghdad had thirty-six public libraries and over a hundred book-dealers, some of whom were also publishers employing a corps of copyists. Descriptions of both public and private libraries speak of the classification of books and their arrangement in separate cases or even in separate rooms. Elaborate catalogues were kept, and the larger libraries were staffed with educated librarians, copyists, and binders.”
Compared to the modern era, these times were primitive; communication had many hindrances to deal with, and resources for exploitation and experimentation were much limited. And yet, progress was the banner that flew over the skies of the Muslim world. It can, thus, be imagined that when the will to observe and acknowledge the Almighty is there, nothing is impossible, for He Himself invites man towards prosperity – of this life as well as of the Hereafter:
"And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: behold, in that are signs indeed for those who reflect." (45:13)
Section III: Reasons behind the Spiritual and Material Muslim Indigence
Quite possibly, numerous other illuminating incidents can be quoted from Muslim history, but the intent here is to simply encourage the common Muslim over what he can achieve if he works with honesty, commitment and ethics. All these projects were, quite evidently, communal projects and were a product of cooperation among the members of society. No prodigious talents are required to achieve healthy ends even today. And yet, nothing noticeable ever comes out of the “Muslim world”.
We are today in disarray, because we have, off late, failed to recognize (i) the ethics of knowledge seeking, (ii) the power of knowledge acquired, and (iii) the disharmony resulting, thereafter. Specifically speaking, following are a few unfortunate occurrences that are currently plaguing the Islamic world today:
i) Muslims deny themselves a thinking mind and keen eye
ii) Muslim scholars have exaggerated the differences of opinion amongst the Ummah, causing immense harm to the Muslim world
iii) Many leaders of the Muslim world have caused great corruption
iv) Muslims are engulfed with debates on contemporary issues in such ways as would undermine the beauty of a religion that appeals to the intellect.
v) Muslims have become apologetic in want of appreciation and acceptance from the more advanced and developed West.
vi) Muslims say a lot but do not act – much unlike their ideals in Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, his companions, and earlier prophets.
Section IV: What Can be Done
In Section II we had started off with the premise that we as Muslims have chosen a path different from the one taken by our earliest ancestors who sought guidance from the Qur’an and the example of Prophet Muhammad sws. Needless to say, the solution to all our shortcomings and problems lies in revisiting these two original, and what we firmly believe to be, authentic sources. We must tell ourselves that no third person or an outsider can present a solution to our problems that would be better than what the Qur’an and Sunnah might propose.
Muslims deny themselves a thinking mind and a keen eye
As has already been conveyed in the essay, Muslims have gradually become fatalistic. The last few centuries have seen them being dominated in almost all spheres of life. To many, it seems, that is reason enough for future vulnerability. However, there are still some who seek to relieve the Ummah from these clutches, which are tightly grasping us due to our slave mentalities. Some of these people seek violent means – using the power of swords, guns, tanks, missiles and other ammunition – while others seek peaceful, yet forceful means – using the pen and the speech. Yet, only a select few heed to the calls of these noble men and women who have set out to revitalize and to reawaken the Muslim world. With the former option, it is not just the Muslim world but the entire world that is jolted and made more vulnerable. With the latter option, people are invited to listen, to be sincerely critical, to be appreciative, to learn, to follow and to preach, in lieu of making the world a more peaceful and loving place. We must listen to such righteous voices and think over what they offer us. In fact, even simply showing interest for the sake of knowledge will not help matters. For knowledge, coupled with faith, is a tremendous quality, but knowledge without faith, or the seeking of knowledge without the desire for faith can almost fire back.
We must establish in ourselves the urge to acquire worldly as well as religious knowledge with the intent that such accomplishments would be best utilized to serve the cause of Islam, which must be the cause of every Muslim. Following this, one should revisit the modus operandi of earlier Muslims. There were those who fought with true grit in Badr, there were those who, out of creativity, dug trenches, there were those who innovated in the sciences. We need to seriously convince ourselves that if faced with such a choice, it may be much more fruitful to sit inside and observe the rain and its wonders than to dance and soak wet, without appreciating the phenomenon. Or else, we will end up muddling in the rain and become devoid of the sense of appreciation. It will remain fun no more. It will gradually begin to look like an anomaly that rips apart our agricultural pursuits or that adversely affects our picnic plans. The analogy may not be appropriate enough but the point that needs to be made is that if we lose our sense of observation, we may end up inflicting trouble on ourselves from things that could have benefited us immensely.
Muslim scholars have exaggerated the differences of opinion amongst the Ummah, causing immense harm to the Muslim world
Unlike other religions, the beauty of our religion is that all the Muslims share the same basic teachings of Islam. Take, for example, Christianity. We find that they disagree even on their basic beliefs and practices: Was Jesus begotten by God or was he not? On the other hand, all Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia share a common set of beliefs and the basic practices enjoined by Allah and His Prophet (sws). Everyone knows that we are supposed to offer prayers five times a day and fast in the month of Ramadan, and if our means allow us, we must perform Hajj. So much so, the basic procedure employed by them to discharge these obligations is the same. For example, while offering the ritual prayer, all Muslims first stand before the Almighty, then bow and then prostrate and even the number of Rakkats are the same. The case of our basic set of beliefs is no different.
Sadly though, our religious scholars have the talent to exaggerate these trivial matters so much as to cause their followers to engage in deadly warfare.
This is, quite possibly, the root cause behind the failure of the Ummah. When our dear prophet, sws, referred to the Ummah, he had in mind the entire Muslim community that was well-knit, united, empathetic, courageous, sincere, truthful, and unaffected by materialistic impediments to faith. Today, unfortunately, we cannot ever use the term Ummah and not feel disgruntled and skeptic. The blame rests on us. We have chosen to become prey to the deadly diversions created by some scholars. Today, we can walk any breadth of the land, and we will find Sunnis, Shias, Barelvis, Deobandis, Salafis, Hanbalis, Hanafis, Malikis, Shafiis, Ahle Hadith…, rarely will we come across a Muslim.
The Muslim countries are torn within due to these disagreements over the very basics. Iraq has been torn between Shias and Sunnis. Pakistan has been the victim of much religious hatred. Mosques, quite frequently, have to be guarded by policemen lest a Sunni comes in thirst of the Shia’s blood, et al.
How can this violence, extremism and mistrust be dealt a blow? By approaching the Qur’an with a clear and sincere mind, followed by healthy, patient and tolerant dialogue. God Almighty says that the Qur’an is a guidance for those who approach it with sincerity and commitment. So, it is not beyond imagination that if all Muslims sit down to discover the jewels of unity, prosperity and eternal happiness, they will succeed. To achieve that end, we all need to tell each other and indeed, to convince our own selves that the Qur’an is the inviolable and unalterable word of Allah. It contains the truth and nothing it says can ever be disavowed. We must not attempt to unnecessarily complicate its teachings to create divides amongst ourselves. Let a Hanafite be a Hanifite if he feels that, for instance, ablution must be performed in a slightly different manner; but let him be a Muslim first! Let him pronounce the kalimah and join hands with another Muslim (a shi’ite, perhaps) to strengthen the Muslim community. We are emphasisng the differences whereas the Muslim fortress must be built on commonalities. Ideally, the leaders of these forced factions should set such examples, but if they cannot, then all of us must.
Our dear prophet Muhammad, sws, was a great blessing on mankind, for he was a living example of the Qur’an. We need to follow his example. Once it is maintained that he never supported violence as a solution to disagreements and neither did he discourage questioning and debate, we can set off on a peaceful note, in a friendly and cooperative atmosphere. Once that is achieved, it should be accepted that, no matter what, disagreements will inevitably arise. But we must tell ourselves that it is not just the other person disagreeing with us, but in fact, we too are disagreeing with him. So, if we want him to respect us and not to curse us, we must also avoid dispatching those feelings towards him. We must tell ourselves: ‘we are sincere in our approach even though we disagree with the other person, and so must he be sincere, even though he disagrees with us. None of us is God, and so, neither of us can claim absolute truth. Rather, we can together arrive at the truth. And for that, we must present arguments from within the Qur’an and from our prophet’s example to support our stance, and the same must be done by the other person’. So long as this process is peaceful, whether we reach a conclusive and mutual stance or not, we will learn to appreciate, respect and love our equals. Remember, all men are Allah’s creation. We cannot afford arrogance. On a more extreme note, such ill-feelings can lead to man-slaughter, and one should know what the Qur’an has to say on such a vicious crime: the killing of one human being is equivalent to the killing of the whole of mankind.
Thus, every Muslim – scholar or not – must learn to respect others as equals and to live in harmony with them. That is the only way to a strong bond, and that is the only way in which we can help and be helped when in need. Otherwise, we naturally end up getting so frustrated and confused, that merging religious ideals with any other branch of life sounds meaningless and insignificant. As a result, our preferences change and the state of being Muslim or the state of adherence to Islam, cripples down to being a virtual nothing in the face of other, ‘more important’ considerations. And once the loud pledges and rhetoric is skipped, one will realize that that is exactly how Muslim countries today are treating each other – directly or indirectly. And countries will change if groups and organizations within that country change themselves. These groups will resort to re-thinking their mission statements only if they feel the power of the general public adhering to Islamic norms, rules and regulations. Remember, thus, that it is in our hands. We are the general public. One man can change the world. And indeed, one Muslim can be the voice to awaken the Ummah.
On a very, very personal note, we can start by acting consciously, devoid of biases, in our day-to-day lives. When in school or at work, we must take care not to offend or write-off another person just because we score better or have a higher ranking. We must carefully listen to them, for they might have something to offer. If we disagree, then we must realize that we have, as a result, accorded them a right to hear why their understanding is not acceptable to us. This should be politely done.
Furthermore, when making decisions of strategic importance, we must award higher priority to Islamic ethics and to rights of others. Everything else should be given secondary importance. If you have the option to cheat and acquire a good grade over some assignment or examination, then dismiss that as an option and settle for honestly done work and a less celebrated grade. It may hurt in the beginning, but eventually, as our thinking patterns change, the determinants of our utilities will also change, and such small acts will bring significant satisfaction.
As you become more and more obsessed with such acts of nobility, you will be inclined to call yourself a Muslim more than anything else, regardless of what your family and friends maintain. In fact, you will have this burning desire to bring your loved ones to feel the excitement of belief that you will feel in yourself. And for that, try to help them and make them realize the spiritual benefits of being a “Muslim”.
Many leaders of the Muslim world have caused great corruption
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr bin Al' As:
I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "Allah does not take away the knowledge, by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray." [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 3, Number 100]
Most leaders of the Muslim world today are irreligiosity personified. There are the ones who are radical secularists, working in the (material) interests of the country, and then, there are the ones who, in words, express unfaltering faith in Islam, while their actions reject all such claims. Nationalism, in its materialistic tendency is evil enough, but these leaders are hypocrites even when it comes to nationalism. They seek power, not to provide flourishing agriculture and innovative industries; rather, they seek power to hoard wealth for themselves, as if, the life of this world is to be shaped with the thought that the Afterlife will be an exact mirror image. Cases in point are: King Raza Shah of Iran, Eidee Ameen of Uganda, President Suharto of Indonesia.
The false promises and false hopes of such leaders have caused much poverty, destitution in the Muslim world. The income gaps keep increasing, and most of the inflicted majority tends to think they were destined for doom. Others tend to think that the tides can only be turned if they resort to violence (something that is reveled by terrorist-jihadi Muslim organizations). Some want to be the Robin Hoods of today.
But, it must be emphasized that such a course of action will only create anarchy and chaos in society, not to mention, grave punishments in the Afterlife. Killing, looting, plundering and raping are all enormous sins, and will be hard to get by. So why let the oppressors have an eternal effect of doom on the oppressed? Why let them govern our lives? The only things that should govern our lives and our course of action are the Qur’an and the example of our prophet, may peace be upon him. The Qur’an tells us to remain patient and tolerant in the face of adversity. The prophet exemplified the same. He was subjected to immense mental and physical torture, and yet, he never sought revenge from a single soul. Rather, he worked towards civility. He sought to establish a society based on morality. For the election of leaders, and in decision-making circumstances, he sought the counsel of a Shura. He emphasized democratic ideals as per the shari’ah, while acknowledging the absolute rule and dominance of the Almighty. And that is what we need to do. We need to make use of our rights to elect a candidate, who is well-scrutinised by the public and by authorities; a candidate who does possess a criminal record or has not been involved in cases of fraudulency. All this, regardless of whether he claims otherwise. We have committed such mistakes in the past and we have paid the price. We cannot afford to risk it no more. We have to become conscious citizens, who are not driven by prospects of material gains only. We should foremostly be bothered about the ethics of a certain candidate – one who can represent our urge for justice, freedom and religiosity.
Operating by such principles will not bear fruit right away, but it will definitely be beneficial in the long-run, with the added effect that bad precedents set in the past will be written off with good precedents.
Muslims are engulfed with debates on contemporary issues in such ways as would undermine the beauty of a religion that appeals to the intellect.
You have conservatism on one end and liberalism on another. One blames the other for misinterpreting religion and giving Islam a bad name. In the end, any Muslim who actually seeks to form an opinion, is made to bear the brunt by inviting undue labels. This causes for much disharmony between Muslims, and gives rise to feelings of dissent and looking down upon fellows.
It is not beyond notice that whenever a person is bent upon declaring one think tank as his very own, he enslaves himself to everything and anything in the name of that consortium. Thus, the modus operandi becomes ‘think not, follow blindly and rail against others’. Ironically, these think tanks are supposed to be thinking and applying knowledge. One can argue that, in fact, that is done. But one just cannot reconcile the fact that for a liberal thinker, every point of understanding has to accommodate modernity, and for a conservative thinker, every point of understanding has to embrace tradition. They will argue to their respective ends as much as would be demanded, but they would never concede.
'A'isha reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The most despicable amongst persons in the eye of Allah is one who tries to fall into dispute with others (for nothing but only to display his knowledge and power of argumentation). [Sahih Muslim, Book 034, Number 6447]
In fact, rather than conceding, these people end up approaching the Qur’an with their own pre-conceived notions, and try to bring the Qur’anic verses in accordance with their beliefs, rather than vice versa. As a result, two opposing and conflicting opinions herald the support of the same Qur’anic verse(s).
For the common man, as a result, there is mass confusion for some who say farewell to the taking religion seriously; as for other frustrated Muslims, they end up seeking ‘spirituality’ with persons adhering to ecstacy and saintliness in the name of religion. This further strikes at the healthy thought process that every Muslim should ideally possess. As M.H. Sadar suggests :
“As Islam does not permit priesthood or a religious hierarchy, it commands each and every believer to seek knowledge and be aware of his/her obligations and responsibilities to society as well as to God. Thus, in Islam, the pursuit of knowledge is both a personal and social obligation.”
The solution again seems to be to live with the conviction that one is an adherent of Islam – a thinking Muslim – and not necessarily an adherent of conservatism, liberalism or sufism. The common man should listen with an open mind to whatever any relatively well-researched person has to say; but his or her name, standing or eminence should not be deemed enough to accept anything that they utter. Of course, a person who devotes his life to religion has jewels of knowledge and pearls of wisdom that help to illuminate the faith of the common man, but one must keep in mind that there are many others who can claim the same status and who command as much respect and appreciation – at least in terms of lending an ear. In addition to this, we must take care to accept only the opinions that are supported by the Qur’an and Sunnah – and not by visions, inspirations or hearsay. This cannot be stressed enough. There should be no compromise on strictly referring to the authentic and primary sources of Islam. A million other logistics cannot outweigh the importance of one Qur’anic verse.
In short, beware of ignorance. Whether the source is passive or active ignorance, as mentioned above, you will be held accountable if you fall prey. So goes the Qur’anic verse: “…every man and every woman is answerable for his or her deeds alone”.
So, contemporary issues are important for (well…) people living in contemporary times. But let not the debates alienate you from the intellectual and spiritual capacity of religious fervour. Go out there, listen to the ones who take support from the Qur’an and Sunnah, and accept from any, either or some or all opinions. Just be sure that you are not bound to listen to just one individual, and that you are only bound to change your own opinion in the light of better evidence brought forth from the Qur’an and Sunnah. Either way, there should be no compromise on the sacredness of the other’s life and the respect he deserves as a fellow human being.
Muslims have become apologetic in want of appreciation and acceptance from the more advanced and developed West.
The world today is one of mass communication and is inter-linked and inter-dependent. Interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims cannot be avoided and in fact, should not be avoided. However, as the order of the day is to begin with Muslims dealing sensibly with fellow Muslims, so is the requirement that they deal sensibly with non-Muslim brothers and sisters.
Much media hype is being created, since a long time now, over the cruelty of Islamic law. It is argued that hadd punishments are extreme, severe and merciless. Apparently, from an on-lookers point of view, that might be the case. But in fact it is not. When non-Muslims argue, they maintain their stance over the convention on human rights. But unfortunately, many from among the Muslim intelligentsia today, respond in ways that they brutalise the confidence of the common Muslim more than hadd punishments are alleged to brutalise the criminal. How? They become apologetics. When the question of hijab is raised, they become apologetics. When the question of slavery is raised, they become apologetics. When inheritance rules are criticized, they become apologetics.
I would like to urge every Muslim not to lose faith in religion; neither would I recommend them to surrender to thoughts that shari’ah from within the Qur’an is ever-evolving, and that there is need to modernize oneself and move-on in order to survive and be accepted. Certainly not. Such conclusions can indeed damage the faith: what more than failing to find solace and unflinching support from the divine word of God? How can the Creator of eternity come up with something terminable, inconsistent and out-dated? No, that is simply not acceptable. And if one is ever confronted with an opinion that seeks to sacrifice the validity of the word of God, then one can safely recoil and research for better understandings for apparently conflicting and inhumane injunctions.
Muslims say a lot but do not act – much unlike their ideals in Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, his companions, and earlier prophets.
Actions are judged by intentions. One must remain God-conscious, and that necessarily requires that we say what we wish to act on, because the Almighty knows what is in our hearts. Nothing is hidden from him. I don’t think anything more need be said. We need to stop our hypocricies, admit our weaknesses, try to rectify ourselves, and to help rectify others. Once Muslims, at large, acquire this quality, they will develop a sense of belonging towards each other, regardless of any territorial boundaries. That will imply a high level of trust and fondness towards each other, and thus, great prosperity.
But before setting in sight such utopian dreams, we must begin with self-cleanliness and self-development. That can be attained through educating ourselves in the sense that we become more aware and conscious individuals. Spreading of this awareness, as mentioned in the course of this essay, will lead to a sense of oneness and unity among Muslims, which can then help us to achieve lofty heights in various sciences of life. Economic, social, religious and emotional prosperity is a special gift from the Almighty to the band of believers. Of course, such prosperity smoothes one into thanking and appreciating the Lord for His providence. In effect, that will help us realize how God’s eternal laws are unalterable, and thus, more faith would be inevitable.
Section V: Conclusion: If they are to become prosperous once more…
Muslims have a long way to go if they are to undo the ills of their mistakes over the past centuries. I have stressed, in the end, on prosperity but that should in no way be interpreted as a materialistic tendency. Rather, what has been stressed is that Muslims can become a force to reckon with, as individuals and as an Ummah – both in terms of steadfastness and protecting their interests – if they pledge to unite. And that can only be attained if individuals promise to adopt an intelligent and perceptive approach. Such tendencies in a few can – knowingly or unknowingly - teach a few others, and the chain effect will set in. The light of education has the capacity to spread and illuminate all who stand by and show even a little keenness. In the final phase, prosperity comes in to reinforce faith and to re-emphasise the importance of an educated approach, which, unfortunately Muslims today are lacking.