We like to think - or rather we comfort ourselves with the thought - that the West, especially the United States, is caught in a frenzy of Muslim-bashing. We try not to realize that our own condition, a mixture of ineptitude and backwardness, is an invitation to bashing. We are not the victims of a cosmic conspiracy. We are responsible for our backwardness ourselves.
We have not managed our affairs well. This is true of almost all the countries that call themselves Islamic. Even when the end of colonialism came, the world of Islam continued to be exploited - again not because of any malevolent conspiracy but because the bankruptcy of ideas that lay at its heart invited exploitation.
Israel dominates its Arab neighbors not simply because of American dollars and American arms. If it was simply a question of money, Arab petrodollars could push Israel into the sea. Israeli domination comes from the power of knowledge and technology. Compared to its neighbors it is a developed country. For its own kind, if not for the Palestinians, it is also a democracy. Both these things give it a commanding edge. Which does not whitewash its repression in the occupied territories. But that is hardly what I am saying.
Our answer to the challenges of the modern world has been twofold. The affluent classes of the Muslim world, including its rulers, have been happy to become appendages or clients of the West. The disadvantaged or those at the bottom of the heap have discovered comfort and security in a crude form of Islamism.
If our elites have failed their respective people, if we have been left behind in the race of knowledge and ideas, our excuse is not that we have been poor learners or that we have a long way to go before we catch up with the West. We like to say that we have been bad Muslims and have not kept faith with the true tenets of Islam.
So towards a self-defined purity of Islam many of us have tried to return in the conviction that this journey back in time holds the key to all our problems.
This journey into the past took no cruder form than the emergence of the Taliban. It has taken no cruder form than the ideas firing the zeal of Osama bin Laden and his followers. The West feels threatened by Al Qaeda terrorism. But perhaps we may consider that Bin Ladenism is a greater threat to the world of Islam than it is to the West.
For the West it is but a physical threat in the form of terrorism. For the world of Islam it is a threat more grave and sinister for it to be trapped in Bin Ladenism is to travel back in time to the dark ages of Muslim obscurantism. It means to be stuck in the mire which has held the Islamic world back.
Since therefore this threat for us is less military and more spiritual or intellectual, we have to be careful about the choice of weapon. The black-and-white simplicities of the Bush administration won't do for us because our concerns and requirements are different. The demonization of Iraq fits in with American preconceptions not ours. The 'axis-of-evil' is an American construct. Who else could have dreamt of it?
The threat to the Muslim world comes from other things. From authoritarianism, from the fact that apart from the half-exceptions (please note, half-exceptions) of Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan, the concept of democracy is alien to the Muslim world. The threat to it comes from intolerance and the lack of knowledge.
Bin Ladenism is the purest distillation of these problems. We shouldn't require Washington to tell us that it is in our interests to exorcise this evil. We should have the sense to realize this on our own. But at the same time this fight should be ours and we should be defining its agenda and setting out its aims.
This is not what is happening. The Bush administration is doing all the defining while lesser states are being pressed into active service in America's 'war on terrorism' and its impending war on Iraq (both things having got mixed up somewhere down the line).
Far from improving matters, this war on terrorism is making things worse for the Islamic world. For it is feeding resentment against the West - and by extension, the values it stands for: secularism, tolerance and democracy - and at the same time making heroes and martyrs of those recruited to the standards of Bin Ladenism. Across the Muslim world as the West is demonized for launching a 'war of civilizations' against Islam, popular sentiment veers towards those shadowy figures and organizations seen standing up to the new imperialism.
In other words, Bin Ladenism is seen not as something primitive but as a movement symbolizing the spirit of resistance. In other words, the sources of terrorism strengthened even as its manifestations are assailed.
Pity the Islamic world whose kings, emirs and dictators are once again policemen in a crusade not of their choosing. During the cold war the same Muslim regimes (except for Egypt), now foot soldiers in Bush's war on terrorism, were in the forward trenches of the US's war against communism. None more so than Pakistan which has never felt more secure than when labeled as America's most allied ally.
There is nothing wrong in being America's friend except that between that and a client who is rewarded only so long as he does his patron's dirty work (and is then discarded), there's a world of difference.
But who are we to educate the West? We can plead and in some cases expostulate. But we are in no position to convert the West. But why should we even be thinking on those lines? Our problem is to convert ourselves. We have to convert our thinking and remove the shackles of obscurantism from our minds if we are to know the meaning and value of freedom and dignity.
National dignity and sovereignty are empty phrases as long as minds are enslaved and our only wisdom is borrowed wisdom. We have to pull down the walls of authoritarianism and make our political systems more democratic if at all we want to improve our lot and gain some respect among nations.
The flame of knowledge is one and indivisible. Down the ages it has passed from civilization to civilization. When it was with the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians and the Chinese, theirs were the civilizations which shone the brightest. When it passed to the Greeks they were the world's leaders in science and philosophy.
For a thousand years Rome was the center of the world. Hindu mathematicians used modern numerals when the rest of the world was unaware of them. When the shadows lengthened over the Byzantine Empire, the torch of learning, one and indivisible since the beginning of time, passed to the Islamic world where it remained for several centuries. When the Islamic world fell into decline, this same torch passed to the West where it has remained since the 15th century.
The West is superior to us because the eternal flame of knowledge and learning is in its keeping. And as long as this holds true, not all the oil in the world can deliver the Muslim world from its backwardness. To the extent that countries like Japan and China have altered their destinies, they have done so by warming themselves at the same flame.
We must remember that of all hierarchies in the world, that of knowledge alone knows no caste or creed. It is not Christian or Muslim or pagan but simply knowledge and those wanting a place in the sun must look into no other mirror but this flame for their salvation.
Excellent article. I found it very honest and courageous. It is unfortunate that you are in the minority. Until the Muslim community can overcome its victim complex, it will always find outside demons to blame for its backwardness.
but the article didnt address the big question: how to get there, in practical terms?
In the 3rd to the last paragraph, I wonder why the author precisely documented the time of the Roman civilization (a thousand year) and the current civilization (since 15th century) ...but when it comes to the Islamic civilization he merely referred to it by "several centuries"?
This is way to complicated to discuss in short, but, the Salafi view on this is wrong. It is suffice to say that a definition must be provided as to what it means to be "Islami" and then we will see who is Kufr
All christians and Jews worship Allah.
All Christians believe in angels and the last day and his prophets, as do many Jews.
By definition Christians are by default Muslims in a sense. Not simply the "christians" at the time of Jesus but also Christians at the time of the Prophet.
Reading everything about the Ahl Alkitab, or Book people you realize that Allah both praises and condemns both Christians and Jews.
The form of Judaism at the time of the prophet (rabbinic) and the forms of Christianity (Catholic, Orthodax, and Gnostic)have remained relatively unchanged in theology since the time of the prophet.
Any good reference in the Quran towards Christianity at the time of the prophet, therefore, is good today, and any bad is bad today.
Muslims are prohibited from making alliances with Kufr. Why did the prophet PBUH make an alliance with a Christian African nation, whose church exists to this day as the Ethiopian Orthodox church?
Why were the early Kaliphs good to their Christian subjects?
Why did Salah Adin use Christians soldiers against the Crusaders?
If all the bad things said about Christians, Jews and Sabeans, than why does the following passage exist(5:69)?
The Words of the Quran are not selective. With the all comments in the Quran refer to the past present and future. Therefore the Quran is clear there are/always will be people who call themselves Chritians/Jews who are really Muslim without knowing and those who are evil and deviant, and these are the Kufr.
One God makes you muslim this applies to Xtians and Jews, but imagine you are in a dark room. The Quran is the light. You can walk in the dark without stumbling to the door to heaven and maybe walk straight to it, but why would yo
Ad Dawatus Salafiyyah is correct in calling the Jews, Christians, Sabians and KULLU Non-muslims kuffaar. He calls them the worst of creation in Suratu Bayyinah (98:6). See also Surah Aali Imran (3:110) where He condemns the masses of Ahlil Kitaab which did not accept Islam. The most telling verse of all is Aali Imran (3:85) which some of the ulama state has abrogated the verses which call for lenience toward the kuffaar. The point being, those Jews and Christians who were believers were those who accepted and embraced their prophet before the coming of the next one, or accepted Islam after the coming of Muhammad (saws).
Galileo wrote "when the religious interpretations of man conflict with the creation of God it is the creation of God that should take precedence." Few people realize that Galileo was a priest favored by the Pope. (Which is probably why he wasn't burned at the stake.) Even Newton was an ordained Preacher as that was a legal requirement to be a professor. (He had to get a waver however as he was a monotheistic Christian.)
Those two parts, the horizons and yourself are primary subjects for those who wish to know The Creator.
They are also a necessary basis for those that wish to develop theology. Or for that matter anyone that wants to help the world out of the mess it is in.
For instance, finding that the religious prescriptions are OR optima fits the idea that God is The Great Optimizer. Mix The All Knowing, The Best of Planners and The Creator and you would expect that this world is optimal for its multiple goals. And herein lies help. The covenant goes to those "that will produce the fruits thereof". Both themselves and others. Aligning your wills (governing yourselves) with the optima both benefits yourself and makes your society more efficient than others, giving you "slack" that can be used in improving yourselves and others. (A race in all good things.)
But the society that takes "wants" or "local optima" as a significant proportion of actions disbenifits itself. You can plan your society by "design by analysis" to immunize humanity to the whispers of evil and put them on the road to felicity. Plan to produce the fruits thereof and you may find help within yourselves and upon the horizons.
In cybernetics, the most successful is that which most "loves its neighbor as itself.
I will not feel a Kaliph is sufficiently Muslim unless the Prophet and/or Allah verbally endorse them by name. It is up to us to choose our new Kalipha if we are to have one, and through that choosing Allah chooses also. The Kalipha as we remember it is dead. It didn't fail as it became more secular but because we became lazy and and supplient. One Kaliph once said to a people "if I fail to serve Allah, then you must set me straight" one man yelled from the crowd "we will tell you, with this" he held up a sword. The Kaliph agreed "this is what we require" Democracy gives us the ability to choose our leader based on our own criteria. If we truely want Islam to return than our Democratic leaders will be good Muslims, if we are not devout are leaders will continue. Are so many scared of democracy because it makes a voter choose Islam rather than simply be born into it? Allah doesn't want sheep who simply follow because they are taught, he chooses you to choose him.
Secularism is not the answer, leaders should be proud of their religion and enforce its morales but not step on those of other faiths. Islam will spread when people see the actions of Muslims as good in much larger numbers.
Islam is a complete solution, but can be applied to any human political structure with easy. The Quran is versatile and fairly flexable where it doesn't matter and unyielding when it does matter. Good Muslims can make a good Islamic Democracy or Dictatorship. Either is irrelevant, first you must put your heart in it. Forget words. Words now have historical meanings beyond their original intentions.
One of the fundamental mistakes of the people of Islam was the same one of nearly all religious groups, the equating of their own opinions with the commands of God. This is shirk and God must bring low any group that does this. How do I make this claim?. You closed the gates of ijtihad. You decided the 4 human created sets of jurisprudence were sacred, equivalent to the commands of God, shirk.
Note that accepting 4 sets of jurisprudence is an admission that the Quran does not specify the details of prudence to a fixed extent. I will give you a hint: When the commands are specific it can be shown that the commands are operations research (OR) optimal across all contexts of this creation. When the commands are not specific it can be shown that the optima is context (local) dependent upon conditions within this creation. (I call these the principles of Al-Haqq, to each thing it's appropriate (optimal) spot) How would you develop a single set of jurisprudence to unite the people of Islam and bring them to the forefront? Cut out the opinions and replace them with the optima. Embrace, clean, integrate, extend. AlHaqq
The author exalts democracy yet fails to recognize Islam as a complete system with a political solution to our political problem. The khilafah is our solution, and we should support the idea and those who work towards it in the manner the Prophet (pbuh) worked to build the Islamic State in Medina.
5:69 Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
So after that who would you say is a Kufr?
I'd say Godless greedy evil people is the definition. Not "non-Muslims" as Salafism teaches now.
THe rest of the sura is very criticle of Christian and Jewish theology, but I see most of the complaints made about the Jews here in Muslims today.
I have read your article and I agree totally. The question is not if the islamic world should open up to new ideas but how to do it in such a way that we do not loose our religion and cultural identity.
Note also that Israel hates the UN almost completely.
Javed, 1.5 million
the one million figure the Arab press uses is unreasonable, I'd have trouble buying 500,000 let alone 3 times that amount. 1.5 million from what starvation? The sanctions allow as much food as needed. Medical supplies? I'd love to see a real study done on Iraq and the deaths from illness and what illnesses before and after the sanctions. The oil for food program allows for many if not most medicines. Send a real UN investigative team into Iraq to study the humanitarian situation and I will believe any number they come up with but this 1 million is ridiculuos.
What? I'm supposed to believe Saddam Hussein just because he says he's Muslim (even though he is a secular atheist Muslim slaughterer)
Hussein has killed more Muslims in is time in Iraq than Israel and the united states combined in 50 years.
Don't defend him.
People that don't look at the mistakes of the past are guaranteed to make the same mistakes in the future.
Without the Khilafah to govern our lives and moderate the actions of all the Muslims the likes of Bin Laden out of a desperate sense that something must be done to protect the Ummah do as they do. He remains and will remain unchecked without it. Similarly, our excellence in the field of learning cannot return when there is nothing of authority to organise us. Everything points to the overwelming need to bring back the authority that succeeded the Prophet (SAW) on this earth - Al-Khilafah !
There is no question that the west is currently economically, scientifically more advanced than Islamic countries.
Their history is irrelevant. We don't want to act like the west except in science, industry and freedom, not in morality. Its not as if Europeans are really bloodier today, but rather have more technology to be bloody efficiently and on a mass scale. There are things that are "superior"
The biggest problem is accepting these things without losing the things that make us great. We must guard against thwe evil and take the goods. A good example is modern Islamic nationalistic movements, and religious fanaticism, both western, christian or secular ideals. Not Muslim Ideals.
Were not the first Kaliphs chosen by consensus, rather than blood or military coup and out right assasignation and power grab?
"but we don't need any outside philosophies"
Yes we do. What makes Islam great is its openess. As long as something doesn't specifically go against "there is no god but the god, and Mohamed is his prophet" and our simple moral precepts than it is ok.