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 reveals 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 onlookers think that following
the Shari‘ah 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
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 they 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 the discussion.
Section II: Tracing the Rise and Fall of Muslim Prosperity
The Muslim World
When our dear Prophet Muhammad (sws)
established an Islamic state in Madinah, 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 of 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
conclusions. 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 was utmost concerned
about them, 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. Quite the opposite, 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 afterlife
will be prosperous as well. The Holy Qur’an says:
It is He Who sends down rain from the sky. From
it, you drink, and out of it [grows] the vegetation on which you 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 you may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender, and
that you may extract therefrom ornaments to wear, and you see the ships
therein that plough the waves, that you may seek [thus] of the bounty of
Allah and that you 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
you may guide yourselves. And marks and signposts and by the stars [men]
guide themselves. (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 one hand 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.
The Prophet (sws) 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 fragrance of
Paradise. (Abu Da’ud, No: 3179)
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 a person attended to, properly with keenness and passionate
desire to explore, what God has placed at his disposal, he is eventually
paid off with lots of convenience, advancement and know-how. 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 by utilizing resources in the best and with due regard to ethics,
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 as
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. ( the 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 (sws), Muslims went through trials and tribulations
of many sorts. Following that crucial phase, they tasted success. The religion
of Islam had an extraordinary 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, characterized 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, and
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 Andalusia and Baghdad over
several hundred years.
Then, came the two falls: the fall
of Cordova, which sent ripples down the Muslim world, and within a hundred
years, the Muslim heartland, Baghdad, was defeated. Yet, Muslim energies
were regrouped. Why? Because they had strength: the strength of faith.
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. Napoleon defeated the fighting Mamluks
the Muslim world was sent into a trauma, much like many adherents of
Islam feel today. They began asking in confusion, hope, bewilderment
and 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 were laid 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.
Thus, it was argued, what had happened
was bound to happen, no matter what. Delving into the prophecies of the
the Hadith literature 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
or the Hadith literature 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 of 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.
The web site
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 varieties1.
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
Although the system is still in use
today, the tendency at present is for over-use and waste of water2.
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 binders3.
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 for the Spiritual and Material Muslim
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, sincerity and commitment. 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
We are today in disarray, because
we have, off late, failed to recognize: firstly, the ethics of knowledge
seeking, secondly, the power of knowledge acquired, and thirdly, 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
a keen eye.
ii) Muslim scholars have exaggerated the differences
of opinion amongst the Ummah, causing immense harm to the Muslim
iii) Many leaders of the Muslim world have caused great
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 (sws), his Companions (rta), 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
the example of Prophet Muhammad (sws). Needless to say, the solution to
all our shortcomings and problems lies in revisiting these two originals
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 example of the Holy
Prophet (sws) might propose.
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 order to make
the world a more peaceful and loving place. We must listen to such righteous
voices and think over what they offer us. Simply showing interest for the
sake of knowledge will not help resolve complicated 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
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 made innovation in the natural 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 with no 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
Muslim scholars have exaggerated the
differences of opinion amongst the Ummah, causing immense harm to
the Muslim world. Unlike other religions, the beauty of Islam is that all
Muslims share the same basic teachings. Take, for example, Christianity.
We find that they disagree even on their basic beliefs and practices: was
Jesus (sws) in reality begotten by God? 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
Rak‘a#t are the same. The case of our basic set of beliefs is no different.
Sadly though, our religious scholars
have the talent to exaggerate some 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, Shiites, Barelvis, Deobandis,
Hanbalites, Hanafties, Malikites,
Ahl-i-Hadith…, rarely will we come across a Muslim.
Muslim countries are torn within due
to these disagreements over some trivial matters. Iraq has been torn between
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 Shiites’ 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
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
a Hanafite 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 to strengthen
the Muslim community. We are emphasising 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 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 virtually nothing in the face of other
‘more important’ considerations. And once the loud pledges and rhetoric
is skipped, one will realize that this 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 rethinking 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.
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 an 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 feel in yourself. And for that,
try to help them and make them realize the spiritual benefits of being
The Holy Prophet (sws) is reported
to have said:
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. (Bukhari, No: 98)
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 unfailing 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.
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 exhibited
by Jihadi Muslim organizations. Some want to be the Robin Hood of
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 away with. 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
(sws). The Qur’an tells us to remain patient and tolerant in the
face of adversity. The Prophet (sws) 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 not possess a criminal
record or has not been involved in cases of frauds. We have committed such
mistakes in the past and we have paid the price. We cannot afford to risk
it any more. We have to become conscious citizens, who are not driven by
prospects of material gains only. We should firstly be bothered about the
moral disposition 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. We 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, this 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. The Holy Prophet (sws)
is reported to have said:
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]. (Muslim,
In fact, rather than conceding, these
people end up approaching the Qur’an with their own preconceived 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 taking the religion seriously;
as for other frustrated Muslims, they end up seeking ‘spirituality’ with
persons adhering to ecstasy 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
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 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 the 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 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
the Sunnah, and accept from any 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 the Sunnah. Whether you accept
or reject, there should be no compromise on the sacredness of the other’s
life and the respect he deserves as a fellow human being.
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
punishments are extreme, severe and merciless. Apparently, from an
onlooker’s point of view, this 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 apologetic. When the question of Hijab is raised,
they become apologetic. When the question of slavery is raised, they become
apologetic. When inheritance rules are criticized, they become apologetic.
I would like to urge every Muslim
not to lose faith in religion; never to surrender to thoughts that Shari‘ah
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 (sws) 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 hypocrisies,
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 consequently great prosperity results.
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 takes one to 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 Muslims are to prosper once
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.5