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Downfall of the Muslim Ummah
Compiled by: Ayesha Hassan

The following discussion has been taken from the General Discussion Forum of Studying Islam (, one of our sister sites. While Jhangeer Hanif is the moderator of this discussion, Ayesha Hassan has compiled it for publication in the journal (Editor).

The history of this world is a story of rise and fall of civilizations. An intimate study would reveal that this rise and fall has definite causes: it is not spontaneous. Therefore, it is vital to learn what actually triggers it and whether it can be reversed. In the following discussion, an attempt has been made to pinpoint the reasons of the downfall, which in fact means the hurdles that need to be removed in order to take the Muslim Ummah back on the track of prosperity.


Aslam: What are the causes which led to the downfall of the Muslims? How should Muslims salvage their lost glory and prestige?

Admin: In a nutshell two causes have contributed to this downfall: Severing ties with the Qur’ān and having no standing in the fields of science and technology. Regaining lost glory would depend on overcoming the above two obstacles.

Imran776: God has blessed men with innate and revealed guidance. If a person does not follow the innate guidance, he is unlikely to follow the revealed guidance. One of the main reasons for the downfall of Muslims is not paying heed to the innate guidance.

Aslam: How did the link with the Qur’ān get severed?

Jhangeer Hanif: The link got severed because people started to approach the Qur’ān with preconceived notions about the Qur’ān.

Aslam: Can we count Sufism as one of the causes of the downfall of the Muslims?

Jhangeer Hanif: Every movement that takes the Muslims away from the Holy Qur’ān is responsible for their downfall.

Tariq Hashmi: Sufism obscured the real picture of the true concept of Islam and hindered its effective propagation; hence it brought about a negative influence.

Aslam: Some scholars insist that the downfall of the Mutazilites was one of the causes of Muslim downfall. Do you agree?

Jhangeer Hanif: I’d rather relate the downfall to the general attitude of the Muslims than relating it to some faction.

Aslam: I believe that the ascendancy of the Asharites led to the blind following of certain schools of thought which is one of the causes of the downfall.

Jhangeer Hanif: Blind following is one of the main causes of the downfall of the Muslims, I agree. Have you ever thought why blind following gained acceptance among the masses?

Aslam: The reasons can be summarized as intellectual lethargy, political turmoil and the fall of the Mutazilites.

Jhangeer Hanif: You are right. Slamming the doors shut to intellectual inquiry into the original sources of Islam has also been one of the main causes.

Aslam: How can we clamber out of the pit of blind following (Taqlīd)?

Ayesha: We can achieve this by inculcating critical analytical skills within ourselves as well as our children. Unless we learn to question something and appraise its validity, we cannot hope to do away with blind following. The level of intellect can vary from person to person but a certain basic level of intellect has been given to everyone. This also incorporates the sense of judgment. That is why people who do not use their intellect have been admonished in our religion.

Jhangeer Hanif: Clambering out of blind following does not seem to be an easy thing to do. Education seems to be the only cure at the moment. Educating the masses that ideas only matter and not personalities, a man remains a man even after acquiring a great deal of knowledge, difference of opinion should be respected, and finally ideas should be criticized and not those presenting them.

‘Taqlīd’ is actually a verbal noun which means ‘to gird your neck with a band’. This thus shows obedience to and following a particular person. As a term, it denotes following someone without asking ‘reason or argument’ for the religious verdict so forwarded. Initially, taqlīd was not related to one particular school of thought. Common Muslims were only supposed to go to the scholars and, without asking them any reference or argument for religious verdict, take fatwa from them as regards their problems or issues. Later, Muslim scholarship thought that this might give rise to ‘following the low desires’ by taking fatwa from so many scholars and then accepting only that which is favorable to the seeker. In other words, the scholars thought that allowing the Muslims to take fatwa from many scholars would cause them to fall prey to satanic whispers since they would not be following Allah but Satan by accepting easy verdicts. Seeing this, the Muslim scholars took another drastic step. They issued the verdict that only one jurist should be followed throughout the lifespan. Since only four schools of thought were preserved in complete form, the Muslim scholars propagated these, which eventually became prevalent among all the Muslims. In the beginning, there seems to have been no bigotry among the adherents of these four schools of thought. However, as it was based on ‘following without thinking’, false feelings of pride and prejudice ultimately found place in the hearts of the blind followers. This is why that the adherents of these schools think of others as inferior. I hope you understand that this is totally against the spirit of Islam—a  religion that supports critical thinking.

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