Section I: Introduction
Charity begins at home. And Muslims
today are in much need of charity. They need to give and receive within their
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
Sharī‘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 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 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
Section II: Tracing the Rise
and Fall of Muslim Prosperity
The Muslim World
When our dear Prophet Muhammad (sws) established an Islamic
state in Madīnah, 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’ān, 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’ān 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’ān 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’ān 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. Abū Hurayrah narrates:
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. (Abū
Da’ūd, 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’ān, 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’ān’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 Mamlūks and 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
Thus, it was argued, what had happened was bound to happen,
no matter what. Delving into the prophecies of the Qur’ān and the Hadīth
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 Qur’ān, the Sunnah or the Hadīth 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’ān 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’ān. Thus, with time, the Muslim world went into ignominy
The web site
www.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
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
Section III: Reasons for 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, 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 world’.
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 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 (sws), his Companions (rta), and earlier Prophets (sws).
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’ān and 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’ān
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 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 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 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 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‘āt
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, Salafis, Hanbalites,
Hanafties, Malikites, Shafites, Ahl-i-Hadīth…, rarely will we come across a
Muslim countries are torn within due to these disagreements
over some trivial matters. Iraq has been torn between Shiites 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’ān with a clear and sincere mind, followed by
healthy, patient and tolerant dialogue. God Almighty says that the Qur’ān 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’ān
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 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’ān. 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’ān 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’ān 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
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 a Muslim.
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. (Bukhārī, 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 Jihādī Muslim organizations. Some
want to be the Robin Hood 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 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’ān and the
example of our Prophet (sws). The Qur’ān 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 Shūrā. He emphasized
democratic ideals as per the Sharī‘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, No: 4821)
In fact, rather than conceding, these people end up
approaching the Qur’ān with their own preconceived notions, and try to bring the
Qur’ānic verses in accordance with their beliefs, rather than vice versa. As a
result, two opposing and conflicting opinions herald the support of the same
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 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 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’ān 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’ānic 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’ānic 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’ān 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’ān 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 Hadd 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 Hijāb
is raised, they become apologetic. When the question of slavery is raised, they
become apologetic. When inheritance rules are criticized, they become
I would like to urge every Muslim not to lose faith in
religion; never to surrender to thoughts that Sharī‘ah from within the Qur’ān 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
Section V: Conclusion: If
Muslims are to prosper 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